Steadying Your Creative Flame

candle flame

 

What’s all this effort for?

When you look at what you wrote and it’s a bore.

You’ve lost the creative spark

That drew you out of the dark.

You’d created so many tales

That you believed kept you on the scrawling rails.

But that was three years ago,

When your passion was again aglow.

Now the embers of your exhausted endeavor,

Are giving off the last flick of light ever.

Confusion, fear, and sadness cloud your head,

At the thought that your life passion is dead.

What was it all for?

To come to a place you abhor?

No.

Rather, you realize the time has come,

To take a needed respite

For your mind to be relit

In the days and weeks ahead,

Because you refuse to believe your craft is dead.

 

How Creative Writing Can Boost Your Intelligence (Guest Blog Post)

This is a reblog of my fellow blogger, Nicholas C. Rossis’ guest blog post.  I thought it was important to share.  Credit goes to Nicholas and guest blogger Sally Keys.

 

This is a guest post by Sally Keys. You may remember her from her guest post, Creating The Time And Space You Need To Write Your Best Work. Sally is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, she enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible.

How Creative Writing Can Boost Your Intelligence

Globally, the average IQ has increased by 20 points over the last 100 years. Many reasons are given for this and all, no doubt, play a part. The fact is that we live in a very different world to the one of 100 years ago. By examining these differences and comparing them to research into intelligence, we can determine ways to boost our own IQs. Creative writing can play a major part in this but only if you are pushing your writing standards to the limit.

What Is Different About Today?

Globalisation has led to multiculturalism becoming the norm. Diethas improved dramatically and, along with basic medication, we have all but eradicated many of the illnesses that struck us down in childhood. Film, television, and mass production of books have all played a part in increasing our exposure to new ideas. Computers for communication, leisure, and research all provide a range of inputs that simply did not exist in the past. New stimuli are known to stimulate the prefrontal cortex (an area of the brain linked to intelligence) and our increased globalization and technological development make novelty a regular occurrence (despite how counterintuitive that may sound). Diet and healthcare help our brains develop further (especially at an early age) and free us from having to fight infections or deal with malnourishment.

What Has This To Do With Writing?

There is some evidence that 5 simple steps can help to boost your intelligence. Each of these can be achieved through creative writing if you approach it properly.

The first, seeking novelty, has been mentioned already. By writing about unfamiliar topics, doing research into another country, trying new foods and so on you are pushing yourself to experience the new.

You are also achieving step 2, which is to challenge yourself. Increase your challenge (and introduce more novelty) by stepping out of your comfort zone. Write a chapter in iambic pentameter or in verse, try a different voice for narration, or find any of a million different ways to push yourself. You could challenge yourself further by taking IQ tests. By taking tests before actively pushing yourself when writing, you could experiment and take the tests again at the end to see if you’ve improved.

The next step is the one most obviously linked to writing – think creatively. The simple act of writing fiction is sufficient stimulus to cognitively challenge your brain, but if you want to boost it, you need to think outside of the box. Take your creativity to the next level by remembering to seek novelty and by challenging yourself. Whilst our novelty-rich modern world has boosted our intelligence as a species, there is something to be said for doing things the hard way. Old-fashioned methods often bring their own cognitive challenges, especially as modern methods become more familiar.

Which leads us to the fourth tip; to do things the hard way. Write your first drafts long-hand. Turn off the grammar and spell checkers when you write it up and edit manually. Do some of your research from books instead of the internet. Taking the longer, slower route brings with it new challenges that cause new stimulation.

The final tip takes us back to one of the ways in which the modern world is different to the old, but it also turns it on its head. We live in multicultural societies and interact with people from across the globe, but do we really know people as well as we used to? The concept of communities seems to have gotten lost along the way. As a writer, the final stage of your work is to share it. If you aren’t taking this step, then you are missing out on the 5th tip, to network. Sharing ideas with others who have faced similar challenges and getting to know them both in person and through their work, will help you increase your intelligence – and improve your writing.

 

My Muse, My Inspiration

muse of wonderment and writing

I’ve discovered my muse. Her writings inspire me and give me mental motivation in my ability to write these days.  Not only that, she writes about topics and relationships that I have great interest in and have wanted to write about.  The muse is author Jodi Picoult.  You may have read at least one or two of her books if you like women’s fiction.  I wonder if she realizes what an inspiration she is to fellow writers.

The last novel I read of hers was the best.  It’s called House Rules.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Loved it!

house rules novel cover

Synopsis:

When your son can’t look you in the eye . . . does that mean he’s guilty?

Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject—forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right.

But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, Emma, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob.

Any time I read her works, ideas flow from my mind onto the paper freely without constraints, and the writing isn’t half bad.  In fact, it often comes out beautifully!  Kudos that I’ve found my muse, my inspiration for aiding me in my creative writing endeavor.

champagne glasses

But when I’m not reading her, when I’m reading other authors’ books, my creative writing isn’t as rich.

I have heard that depending on the type of writing style and its brilliance or less brilliant form, voice, structure, character development, and flow of whatever authors you read can and will affect how good and creative your own writing will be.  Should I continue reading others’ books and settle for a mediocre spark of creativity? Perhaps I’m learning something else from these authors’ writings than from my muse’s writings, that can help my writing techniques in some way.  I just haven’t discovered what that is yet.  If and when I do, I’ll write a blog post on it.

Therefore, I won’t stop reading other authors’ works that I like.  After all, I do know that my first novel was written before I’d read anything by Picoult, so I know I can accomplish this.  I just need to stay motivated and continue to practice my writing and continue reading the genre in which I am interested and in which I write.  That’s part of being a writer.

idea writing

Incidentally, as I’d written this, new ideas popped into my head on additional dialogue and descriptions (in which I’d turned into written revisions) to my first novel, Passage of Promise.  I’ve been revising and deepening its protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters’ relationships for the past week so that I can send it back to my editor in a couple weeks to re-edit and give any other suggestions.

Wow.  Who would have thought a blog post on writing abilities via one’s muse and the concerns about lesser creative abilities when not reading their works would lead to ideas sprouting like pea shoots in my head.  I think the creative writing of my muse lingers in my mind like the sweet smell of incense from Orthodox Church services I attend that cling to my clothes and hair, and keeps God in my thoughts for the week.

So, what are the solutions to this struggle of the muse and the lesser inspired readings to aid me in my writing?  Well, I will…

  1. Continue reading works from Picoult.
  2. Take daily walks. They give me peace, spur creative ideas, and nostalgic memories.
  3. Write, if not daily, every other day (I try, people).
  4. Do other creative activities. I’ve read they help spark ideas for your writing.
  5. Try not to worry about losing my writing abilities.  I’ve got to stay steadfast and believe in my writing.  And truly, writing is in me (has been since my childhood) and part of who I am.

Who’s your writing muse that helps inspire you?

 

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Holy Pascha

Christ's Resurrection

Let God Arise!  Let His enemies be scattered!

When you take the journey with Christ from His entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, praised and honored through the laying down of palms, through the grueling walk to Golgotha, wailing with His Mother, to experiencing the thunderous, earth-trembling from His death, His descent into Hades, breaking the chains and releasing those waiting in the tombs, preaching to those who did not know Him, to witnessing His glorious Resurrection, told to us by an angel at His Tomb, your body, mind, and soul are greatly and positively affected.

Your body aches from the hours of services, for which three quarters of the time you’re standing.  Your mind is filled with the readings of his journey and what it all means.  Your heart is torn into pieces listening, watching, and reading of the scourging, mockings, spitting, and especially the words “His blood be on us and on our children.” Lord, have mercy.  *doing the sign of the cross*  That line always gets you.

swinging censor

You take in the sweet smell of incense that reminds you of the realm of God’s Kingdom, the prayers of the Saints, and that you and your brothers and sisters in the nave of His Church are with Him through all of it.  You’ve heard these passages hundreds of times, but something new and profound hits you every year this is read aloud.  This time, you’re wishing you were the thief on the cross, hoping, praying, pleading, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” and you’re dying to hear Him say, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

You weep when you hear His Mother, the Theotokos, wail and say to Him as He plods to His voluntary crucifixion, “”Where are you going, my Child? Why do you travel along so fast? Would there perhaps be another wedding in Cana, and you hurry there, to turn for them water into wine? Can I not come with You, my Child? Or tarry with you? Speak to me a word; You, Who are the Word. Pass me not by in silence, You, Who kept me pure. For You are my Son and my God.”  In your humanity and being a mother of two sons, the words slice through you, cutting you deeply, and you feel Mary’s pain.

But then the Panagia tells Him to hurry and rise on the third day so that she can see Him glorified:  “O my Son, where has the beauty of Your form vanished?  I cannot bear to see You unjustly crucified; hasten, therefore, and rise up, that I too may behold Your Resurrection from the dead on the third day.”  You realize that the Theotokos knew and understood immediately what Christ had been saying before His crucifixion that He’d rise on the third day, whereas all but one of the Apostles fled in confusion, fear, and sorrow.  Beloved Apostle John stood by the Cross with Christ’s Mother and the other women.

Pictured below:

Christ crucified.  Holy Thursday evening is the Twelve Gospels Service that follows Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion.  Our bishop was present for this service, so instead of being three hours, it was four.  This night’s service is the longest, but this was the longest I’ve ever encountered, but it didn’t matter.  When you experience such profound, glorious, and heart-wrenching events, you’re undone, heart, soul, body, mind, but in a good way.

Christ crucified Annunciation GOC

This is the kouvouklion — Christ’s Tomb — that the ladies of my church decorate each year ( took this picture personally on Friday.  It is from my church).  Gorgeous.  It is carried around the church Friday evenings for the Lamentations service, where we join Joseph of Arimathea in carrying Christ’s body to the new Tomb.

kouvouklion Annunciation GOC Holy Week 2018

Video taken by me at our “home” parish back in Colorado Springs, Colorado, (2011) that gives you a glimpse into Holy Saturday morning’s Divine Liturgy where Christ descends into Hades and destroys its chains and gates and opens the tombs.  The pounding we made (and wish all Orthodox Churches did this) is to symbolize the breaking open of the gates and chains and the tombs.  The priest throws basil leaves and flowers symbolizing Christ’s victory and that He is King and Lord. (It isn’t unusual that after the two and a half hour service the night before that this service is less attended, which is unfortunate because it’s such a beautiful and joyous experience).

Holy Saturday evening’s Resurrection Service is held around midnight with a vigil and then the Divine Liturgy.

Here’s a video from an Orthodox Church of a few years ago that shows what happens around midnight when the priest announces, “Come receive the Light,” which the candle represents Christ’s descent into Hades and darkness and through His Resurrection, the Light has come into the world and has trampled down Death by His death.  After His entrance, you, along with your brothers and sisters in Christ, say joyously and triumphantly, “Christ is Risen!” and will chant this verse over and over again that early Sunday morning and the next several Sundays:

Christ is risen from the dead,

trampling down death by death, 

and upon those in the tombs,

bestowing Life.

The Holy Fire descends on the Tomb of Christ inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem every Holy Saturday.  The Greek Orthodox Patriarch receives the Holy Fire that miraculously lights his bundle of thirty-three candles each year).  Here’s a video of this mystical and miraculous event from today:

At the end of the liturgy, you receive a red egg that symbolizes the blood of Christ, and Life.  You gather with your family and brethren in the hall for some food and drink, and crack eggs with them.  The cracking of the eggs symbolizes the cracking open of the tombs.  If your egg survives the cracking contest, you are blessed.

cracking red eggs Orthodox Pascha.jpg

It’s a blessing to return home each night smelling of sweet, heavenly incense, and body wrought from worshiping Christ God in body and spirit.

On Pascha Sunday, you attend the Agape Vespers Service where the proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection is read in several different languages.  The most common languages spoken are English, Greek, Arabic, Latin, Albanian, Spanish, German, French, and sometimes Japanese and Swahili.  Others also may be said if there are parishioners who know that language or come from the country that speaks that particular language.  You enjoy hearing the Good News in many tongues, showing this message is universal.

You enjoy a Paschal picnic of lamb and all other types of meat, etc., and Pascha sweet bread, called Tsoureki in Greek.  We got one this year from the women’s monastery a few hours away:

Greek Pascha sweet bread.jpg

 

Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen!

 

 

 

Writing Away From Home

waiting room

I’m a creature of habit and tend to do the same things every day.  Spontaneity visits me on rare occasions.  With regard to writing, I prefer to write in the morning hours.  But sometimes I write in the evenings.

At home, I usually listen to some music quietly in the background.  The music often is instrumental relaxing piano or jazz.  Sometimes it’s just old pop rock favorites from my youth.  Whatever the music, it’s set at a low decibel so that I can concentrate on my story and what scenes and words are formulating in my mind to be transcribed by my hand scribbling with a pencil onto paper.

Last Wednesday, I did something I’d never done before.  I took my notebook to the waiting room of the dentist while my son had his teeth cleaned and a couple tiny baby teeth removed for the start of upcoming orthodontic work.  My iPhone was dragging at a low battery level, so I’d left it in the car to charge (I don’t think it really charged much, though…unfortunately, it’s just about time to upgrade my phone).  I brought my notebook and a positive attitude of putting down words in sentences for my next chapter, but when I got into the office and checked in, I wasn’t sure I could do it.  There were three people sitting kitty corner to where my son and I sat, and were chattering up a storm, at a loud volume, and the country music (not a fan, by the way) practically blaring through the speakers in the room challenged my ability to concentrate.

Nevertheless, I immediately opened up my spiral book where I’d left off with my last notes and started writing two or three words, and it took off from there.  The talking, the music all faded away as I delved into my characters’ lives and the conversations they were having and the thoughts they were mulling over.  Three times–twice by the hygienist and once by the dentist himself–said my name, which brought me out of my fictional world to answer them and discuss my son’s cleaning and then the extractions.  In that hour and twenty or so minutes, I managed to write up a chapter and a half.  I had to close up my notebook when my son’s dental work was done and head home.

writing on the grass

I am amazed by the amount of writing I got done in such din and in a spot I hadn’t thought I’d be able to focus to write anything.  On the contrary!  I accomplished more, it seems, at a waiting office than I have on average in the comfort of my own home! I need to do that more often!  Maybe next time I’ll go to Barnes and Noble, find a cozy spot, and write to my heart’s content.  I can’t imagine what glorious dialogue, scenes, etc. I’d write at a beautiful vacation spot!

I’m guessing you’ve already written outside, or in other places than your home.  I’m just late to the party.  Questions:

1) Where do you usually write?

2) Do you write outside of your home?

3) Where do you write outside of your home?

4) Do you feel the outside atmosphere a good creative writing space?

5) What have been your experiences?

If by some odd chance you’ve not ventured outside your home to write in some other building or out in nature, do give it a try!

What a fabulous discovery! You learn something every day. 🙂

 

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Happy Easter to My Christian Friends and a Blessed Palm Sunday to My Orthodox Christian Brethren

palm sunday icon 1

Today is Western Christian Easter, and I wish all my Christian friends celebrating Christ’s Resurrection today a Blessed and Happy Easter.

Today is Palm Sunday for us Orthodox Christians.

palm cross 2

We Eastern Christians are on the Julian Calendar, whereas Western Christians follow the Gregorian Calendar.  If you are interested in learning a little more about this, click on this link.

Tonight (I think technically last night) starts Orthodox Christian Holy Week in which we participate and follow Christ through his Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.  It’s the greatest feast and holiday of the year for us.  It’s also a very focused, holy, and busy week for us.  Reading my church’s bulletin, there are around sixteen services for Holy Week.

We call this celebration of Christ’s Resurrection on Sunday not Easter but Pascha.  This is the term that’s been used from the beginning, which follows the Jewish Passover (Pesach).  Here’s a couple excerpts of info on Orthodox Pascha and where the word originates from:

Pascha (Greek: Πάσχα), also called Easter, is the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. Pascha is a transliteration of the Greek word, which is itself a transliteration of the Aramaic pascha, from the Hebrew pesach meaning Passover.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the center of the Orthodox Christian faith. Twelve weeks of preparation precede it. This is made up of pre-lenten Sundays, Great Lent, and Holy Week. The faithful try to make this long journey with repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and study. When the feast finally arrives, it is celebrated with a collection of services combined as one.

One of the hymns we sing on Palm Sunday:

Apolytikion: First Tone

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion, You did confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!

I’ll try to write a midweek post and one on Pascha to share the absolutely moving, beautiful, and profound services to give you a glimpse into what this week is like for us Orthodox.

Again, Happy Easter to all my friends celebrating today!

 

Summer Memories in April

love of books pic

Last November 2017, I entered three writing contests FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, and was selected one of twelve finalists in one of them.  I am very excited and proud to have one of my short stories published in Scribes Valley Publishing’s anthology.  I can’t wait to see my story in their anthology! It comes out next month. Here’s the link to their website that shows the cover of the book in which my story will be printed, and the list of twelve winners. I, a newbie, am among seasoned, professional writers! What an honor!

 

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