Creativity

Writer Crush Wednesday: Leo Tolstoy

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This Writer Crush Wednesday, I’m sharing a passage from a book I finally read last year. Yes, last year! But this excerpt is so good I’m still thinking about these few paragraphs months and months later. I’ll probably always think about them. They’re from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina at the very moment Anna and Count Vronsky succumb to their passions. I won’t ruin it by trying to explain all that’s going on here. Just read.


He felt what a murderer must feel, when he sees the body he has robbed of life. That body, robbed by him of life, was their love, the first stage of their love. There was something awful and revolting in the memory of what had been bought at this fearful price of shame. Shame at their spiritual nakedness crushed her and infected him. But in spite of all the murderer’s horror before the body of his victim, he must hack it to pieces, hide the body, must use what he has gained by his murder.

And with fury, as it were with passion, the murderer falls on the body, and drags it and hacks at it; so he covered her face and shoulders with kisses. She held his hand, and did not stir. “Yes, these kisses–that is what has been bought by this shame. Yes, and one hand, which will always be mine–the hand of my accomplice.” She lifted up that hand and kissed it. He sank on his knees and tried to see her face; but she hid it, and said nothing. At last, as though making an effort over herself, she got up and pushed him away. Her face was still as beautiful, but it was only the more pitiful for that.

“All is over,” she said; “I have nothing but you. Remember that.”


This is how I want to write when I grow up.

What do you think of this passage?

Have you read Anna Karenina?

What writers have blown you away?

My Advice to #IndieAuthors (NOT sugarcoated) on @KonnL’s Blog

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Originally posted on konnlavery.com

(Hint: Book marketing advice begins at question #4) 

Christa Wojciechowski – Horror Novella Author of SICK

June 7, 2016 | Interview


For this month’s guest author, I’d like to welcome Christa Wojciechowski, a fellow horror/thriller writer who focuses on novellas. Her work can be seen in the series titled SICK and her book The Wrong David. Christa and I will be chatting about her writing process and her books. Let’s get to know Christa.

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#MyArtistDate 001: Watercolors

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Forest of the Lonely River

I used to want to be a painter more than I wanted to be a writer. As high school graduation approached, my art teacher encouraged me to look at art schools moved me up to portfolio classes, but I gave up before I got started. I didn’t see a future in it. How likely was I to make a living off of painting? I dropped art in my senior year so I could join a program that allowed me to leave school after lunch to go to work. I became an artist all right – a sandwich artist at the Subway. Glamorous, I know.

Now, my main character in The Sculptor of New Hope, Ona Price, has taken on my struggle as the aspiring painter. Me? I haven’t painted in years, but I was inspired by my friend. Her name is Fay Kambos and she is always on some creative endeavor. I decided to make painting this week’s artist date because giving up art is a source of regret for me. I had some potential back then. If only I had believed in myself, I might have done well.

Here is my first humble attempt at watercolors. I didn’t plan on what to paint. I didn’t use anything for reference either. I forced myself to trust my artistic intuition. I forgot the simplest of drawing techniques, but I kept going, curling my nose at it the whole time, trying to relax into some measure of enjoyment. I tried not to dwell on the fifth-graderishness of it. Do you know how difficult that was? You’d be amazed at what your inner voice says when you start taking dictation. Some of the thoughts that went through my head were:

  • Ha! You don’t know what you’re doing. This sucks
  • It’s watercolor. You’re supposed to leave white space. Duh!
  • You should just crumble this up and throw it away.

I don’t even register them most of the time, but they are definitely sneering and sniggering whenever I create something. Now I know the culprit of my creative blockages.

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I turned on music to distract me from the annoying voices. Soon, I began to stop thinking. I reached the place where I wanted to be. Not thinking, just doing. In the end, I’m pleased with my little scene. It’s no Van Gogh, but I made something out of nothing.

I did it. I painted.

But I wondered why the scene was so bleak. What did that say about my neglected inner artist?

I decided this forest would not be desolate, but fertile ground for the creative future. At the very last, I painted in the first few leaves as a sign of the new growth to come.

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It goes to show you how self-doubt can kill you before you get started, but if you persevere through those negative feelings, you will create something – anything, and it’s yours. No one else could’ve created anything quite the same.

(And it just so happens that I had a breakthrough while writing the last of my SICK series. The artist dates already seem to be working!)

Keep writing, keep painting, keep dancing, keep the creative fires burning. Take your inner artist out on a date and hashtag it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as #myartistdate so we can all share in the positive creative vibes.

Learn more about my The Artist’s Way challenge and get a chance to win my copy of the book by Julia Cameron!

My Journey Through The Artist’s Way

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I’ve begun reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book is a workshop to discover and recover your creative self.

All of us lose that dauntless creative spark as we get older, and I wanted to develop a creative lifestyle so that I would get into a better writing routine. I didn’t even feel creatively blocked, but now that I delve into this book, I realized I do have some rusty, old blockages and stale issues with self-doubt that need to be resolved.

I bought this old copy from Amazon. I like the worn-in magic of used books. I feel they hold some of the residual energy of the previous owner. The book is very spiritual and it’s also superstitious. I love its wide margins peppered with inspirational quotes. I’ve been using the extra space for notes, which is what I’m sure the author intended.

There are many exercises to do each week, but so far, I’ve only been doing what’s called ‘morning pages.’ They are three pages of stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning. I thought this journal writing stuff would take up too much of my time, but I find that after I’ve done my three pages, it’s as if time moves more slowly. My head is less cluttered with aimless ruminations, and I have space to think productive thoughts.

I also started going on the ‘artist date.’ Scandalous, I know! This is a date you have with your inner artist to fill the creative well and trigger inspiration. You must be alone on this date – and it’s not setting aside a few hours to write/paint/create by yourself. It’s inventing some other activity that isn’t directly related to your work.

For instance, one week I watched and reviewed Bitter Moon. The next week, I gutted and refurbished the woman cave – my artistic haven. It can be anything from going to a garage sale to making an exotic recipe you’ve never tried before. I think it’s all about training your brain waves off the usual tasks to allow the unconscious processes time to gel.

I plan to give this copy away when I’m done with my journey. I hope to pass the creative spark and the notes along to another artist. This book has changed the lives of people all across the world. Artists form groups and go through the journey together. I will at least share my experience with you and pay it forward.

So, join me in my journey if you’d like to cultivate your creativity, and hashtag your posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with #myartistdate so we can share in the creative cauldron!

Register to be the one to receive my worn-in copy of

The Artist’s Way.

May the artistic force be with you!

Writing from Dreams

Dreaming

Why I Wrote Sick – Dreams often set the tone for my day. I have vivid dreams that feel just as real as the fact that I’m siting here writing this blog. They form a vapor around me as I go about my normal life – whispers, impressions, and lingering emotions. I’ve always had the ability to overlay fantasy over reality (or the other way around), and I try not to box-in my perception. I think our human brains have room to grow if we let them, and I keep my idea of reality is very loosely defined (Carlos Castaneda and psychedelic drug use could have a part in this). Sometimes this swirling imagery makes me anxious because I feel like I don’t have anything solid to hold onto. But, most of the time it’s wonderful to experience life on so many levels.

My dreams and visions are especially important to my writing. Antoni Azarov came to me in a dream years ago. His presence felt like a shadow, mute and timeless, blocking out the rest of the world. When I looked up into his eyes, I felt jarring sensation underneath my ribcage. I will never forget his determined stare. He would not take no for an answer, so when it came time to write my first novel, I knew it was he who had to be the sculptor.

John Branch, the character in SICK, I met more recently. He didn’t have a name yet in the dream, but he was a beautiful and manic version of a young John Lithgow. I hadn’t seen John Lithgow movie in years! So I’m not sure why suddenly my brain conjured him up as this sick man. It still cracks me up to this day, but John Lithgow is perfect for him. Anyway, I wasn’t myself in the dream either. I was another woman, his wife, and I was a shorter, more grounded and level-headed sort of person. I was a person with faith in God.

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I remember the dream house with the same familiarity as my own real home, but this place was decrepit and neglected. I had difficulty getting around the clutter and mess everywhere. The silent white light of autumn glowed from the windows. The wooden floors creaked as I approached the bed. My husband lay there limp and motionless; a smell was diffused into the air by the warmth of his body. It was pungent from the dried blood, antiseptic, and medicine, but also sweet and overripe from his clammy skin, his healing wounds, and his sickly breath. I remember that most from the dream, my husband’s smell. It fills my nose right now as I write this. His broken leg was in a cast; the rest of his body was covered in bruises. The soiled sheets clung to him, incubating him. If you’ve ever been around a very ill or badly hurt person, you will know that sickly smell of a healing or dying body.

He then asked me for pain medication, a shot of Demerol. I remember that although he looked anemic and weak, there was an underlying menace that made me uneasy. I sensed that behind his sweet requests, he was mocking me. I was a little bit resentful and a little bit fearful at the same time. It was just a flash of negative emotion, and then my reason blotted it out.

I felt foolish and guilty for thinking about him in that way. I was a good wife, and this was my husband, whom I had been with for years. We knew each other inside and out, didn’t we? And he loved me, and I loved him. No matter how much of a burden he was, I would take care of him forever. I gave him his shot, and smoothed the damp hair from his forehead.

The dream continued and I viewed the whole story to a shocking and revolting end. When I woke up, I just couldn’t shake it off. His watery-eyed stare. And my fear. The eerie fog of  it snuck up on me for weeks. The experience clawed at me and wouldn’t let go.

I entertained the thought of writing it down. “Oh, yeah. Maybe I should write that as a book one day.” It wasn’t really my style, or so I thought. I never wrote anything like it before, but the scene just wouldn’t leave me alone. Then I researched the medical condition I was treating in the dream and discovered John Branch’s situation was real. I couldn’t believe it! I knew I had to write it.

So, I never set out to write a creepy suspense. I didn’t invent the plot or the characters. It was all handed to me by my subconscious. That’s the story behind SICK. Strange, but true.

 

Have you ever had a dream that just wouldn’t let you go?

Do you write or create from ideas based on dreams?

What role do dreams play in your waking life?


 

I’m happy to say my dream experiment worked out.

SICK is getting great reviews!

Check out what people are saying on Amazon.

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Click the book.

PS: Part II is in revisions and coming very soon. Stay tuned!

 


Photo credit

 

#Amwriting: How do you know when you’ve gone too far?

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…and what has been written cannot be unwritten.

Since I started writing a few years ago, I discovered a peculiar phenomenon – I’m often shocked at what happens when these fingertips hit the keys.

I know many writers plot out every scene ahead of time. I thought that would be my way of putting a novel together. I am obsessed with efficiency and order in my daily life. However, I’ve found that I can’t adhere to any structure when writing. I suppose that’s why it’s so exhilarating and therapeutic for me. I get to let the messy, intuitive side out to play.

I’ve just finished Part II of the SICK series that my readers voted for. I had planned to finish it sooner, speed-publishing it like the first book, but I was delayed by my own aversion to the manuscript. Yes, I freaked myself out with my own writing. SICKER has become sicker than I ever wanted it to be.

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Seeking the Mr. Miyagi of Writing

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I love movies that depict a talented-but-too-immature student who begrudgingly goes under the instruction of some old timer. Eventually the kid realizes his pain-in-the-ass coach is giving him the tough love he needs. The student takes his lessons seriously and grows inwardly and outwardly to reach his full potential.

There are many films with this theme, but the one that sticks out most in my mind is The Karate Kid. I know I’m dating myself when I say I watched these movies in the theater as a kid and they are among my favorites of all time. Everyone wants to reach their full potential, but most of us have no idea how to get there.

I wasted years dreaming about writing and never writing. I finally began five years ago after the tragic death of a pelican (a long story I will share with you one day). Then came The Wrong David, the NaNo series, and now here I am with SICK. I’m happy to be publishing my work, but now I’m anxious to move up to the next level. I feel like I could write my ass off, but I also am aware that I’m missing something. Many things, actually. I don’t know what they are, but I sense them whenever I read my work. I know a seasoned writer probably point the faults out right away, but I don’t personally know any seasoned writers.

A few years ago, my mom gave me a copy of Eat, Pray, Love. I vaguely remember Elizabeth Gilbert mentioning something like, “if you pray for your guru, they will come.” So this is me officially putting my call out to the Universe.

I’m ready for you, my Mr. (or Mrs.) Miyagi of writing. Put me through a composition boot camp. Drill me with grammar rules until I cry. Make me type until my fingertips are raw. I don’t know if I can catch a fly with chopsticks, but I sure as hell will try. I’m dead serious about becoming a good writer. I feel I have the potential. I know I have the desire. I just need someone to guide me. Mentor, please find me.

 

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Did you have a Mr. Miyagi in your life?

How did you find a mentor/coach/guru?

What’s your favorite inspiring coaching movie?

 

 

Quotes from Alesha Drew

What Are You Writing For?

What are you Writing For?

As a creative person and one who’s plagued by existential questions, I get trapped into that circle of thinking if what I’m doing matters. Will anyone read my writing? Will anyone care? Will I ever be able to make a living from it? Am I just wasting my time and energy torturing nice people with my substandard prose?

I work with writers and for writers (and this applies to all creative people), and I think we all have that dream of becoming famous (even if you say you don’t, you wouldn’t mind it, would you?). We all have that hope of changing the world with our work. We want to be praised and validated. We want to communicate on a deeper level. We want to be admired, at least just a little bit, and be able to say I told you so to all the haters. Most of all, we want to leave a legacy after our death.

But our dreams deflate each time we see the sheer numbers of other people who have the same exact dream as we do and are pursuing it more efficiently and more fervently. They write better, market better, sell better. We see other artists kicking ass out there, and we wonder how in the world they do it. Maybe we don’t have the resources, the time, or the energy. Maybe we don’t have the savvy or the persistence. Maybe we’re suffering from do-I-suck-a-phobia.

It’s easy to get caught up in the race to the bestsellers list, but let me wrap my arm around your shoulders and guide you into my existential realm here. Although contemplating our place in the ginormous, black Universe can make us feel insignificant and pointless at times, in the same way it frees us from our anguish. Look at it this way…

  1. You only have one life (as far as we know). If there is anything noble about it, it’s living in the pursuit of creating and appreciating beauty in all its forms. It’s one of the only redeeming qualities of our species.
  2. Your one life is very short. You could spend it watching TV. You could become a typical consumer, chasing promotion after promotion so you can raise your standard of living. Or you could live a life of passion and do whatever makes your soul sing.
  3. You have to be yourself. If there’s one thing I learned about being happy in this life, it’s being true to who you are. If you only behave and do what you think you’re supposed to do instead of what you really want to do, you will be a miserable person. Guaranteed.
  4. Your audience doesn’t matter all that much. Human beings are a very small, messy, and crude part of the universe. Having their mass approval is not necessarily anything special. There is much of existence beyond our little blue sphere that might marvel at your work if they ever got to experience it.

Creativity is a gift. In making something out of nothing, we can be the gods of our own little universes.

I hope you all found this comforting.

Happy Friday and Happy Creating!

Do you ever wonder if what you’re creating matters?

How do you think your work fits into the Universe?

What are you working on right now?

What are you writing for?

Photo source

#Writers Blooming Everywhere

Writing Quotes Christa Wojo

I’m now on Instagram! @christawojo

I live in the Chiriquí highlands, a land of eternal spring that bursts with flowers all year long. My yard is full of countless colors and species. There are pinks, yellow, blues, reds, purples, fiery oranges, and blazing whites. There are orchids, daffodils, roses, hibiscus, and many kinds of plants that I can’t identify.

I try to make sure I crawl out of my writing/working cave for a few minutes a day to appreciate the flowers. Not only is it soothing to get away from the glowing screens of my electronics, but I do it for the plant life too. I feel it’s a shame to ignore them as they strain upward to bloom as brightly as they can. I know that all too quickly they will wilt and die. Someone should be there to watch their performance.

On hikes through the cloud forest, I often notice a lone, exotic flower in the mist. It waits there in silence, sparkling with dew, and trembles in the breeze like it’s excited to see me. I think of how easily I might not have been in that spot at that moment to witness it in its pinnacle of existence. What a pity for those countless hidden beauties who go through the trouble of making a such a performance only to be missed!

But I realize that whether I was there or not, the flower would’ve opened in the darkness of the jungle anyway. It would have raised its petals to the moon and folded back into itself again, a marvel never to be seen.

I think of artists like flowers – painters, dancers, singers, and writers. We are designed to bloom and can’t help ourselves from doing so. It doesn’t matter if anyone is there to witness it or appreciate it. It doesn’t matter if it’s practical or not. It’s what we were made to do, and we must do it or we’ll be miserable.

We may get trampled on or devoured by insects. We may be clipped short and put in a vase to be put on a brief display for others and then shrivel before our time. We may be watered and nurtured so that we thrive and mature to our fullest potential, blooming season after season, becoming an attraction for bees and butterflies and hummingbirds.

On the other hand, we may never be noticed or acknowledged by a single soul. We might throw all our energies, passions, and resources into becoming the most spectacular blossom, only to crumple back into the ground without attracting the slightest notice.

The point is this. Don’t write to be seen. Write to become yourself.

No matter what, we must break from the soil, unfurl with determination, and reach for the sun. As flowers bloom, so we must write. We must write. We must write!

So go write!

What are your goals as a writer?

Would you still write if you knew no one would ever read it?

What are you working on right now?

Are Writers Sociopaths?

William Somerset Maugham Quote Artists

Excerpt from Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham.

I finally finished reading Of Human Bondage. Honestly, I didn’t want it to end. It’s an amazing book that resonated with me on multiple levels. My copy has kept me company toilet-side for the past year and is dog-eared and slathered in orange highlighter. I’ll probably be posting more quotes from the book whenever they come to mind.

There were so many “Yes!” moments for me in the story watching Philip explore what it means to be an artist, not only of writing or painting, but an artist of his own life.

What do you sacrifice for art?

For authenticity?

For beauty?

For originality?

For love?

This quote, spoken by Philip’s friend Clutton, is a perfect example.

Oh, my dear fellow, if you want to be a gentleman you must give up being an artist. They’ve got nothing to do with one another. You hear of men painting pot-boilers to keep an aged mother – well it shows they’re excellent sons, but it’s no excuse for bad work. They’re only tradesmen. An artist would let his mother go to the workhouse. There’s a writer I know over here who told me that his wife died in childbirth. He was in love with her and he was mad with grief, but as he sat at the bedside watching her die he found himself making mental notes of how she looked and what she said and the things he was feeling. Gentlemanly, isn’t it?”

I think every writer develops the capacity to objectify people, events, and emotions. We have to distance ourselves from them so that we can examine them – whether they are tragic, vulgar, absurd, joyful, wrathful – and render them in their truest light according to our perspective (or that of our characters). The more I write, the more skilled I become at this distancing. It’s kind of creepy.

Does this make artists predatory, opportunistic sociopaths?

Weeelll, I say.. not completely.

I admit, I do sometimes pursue adventures in the same way the proverbial lawyer chases an ambulance, but I also do it as a means to greater understanding and depth of experience. For me it’s a form of delirious homage for all the mysteries, horrors, and delights of existence. It allows me to ignore my ego’s emotional investment in a situation so that I have the ability to look at it simply as it is, and not what I believe it is or should be.

(Let’s hope I’m not outing myself on some personality disorder here.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Have at it below!