Saturday, December 24, 2011

10 days of determination: day 10 - love.

for the last day, it can be summed up in one word.


love what you do. if writing is becoming that much of a headache,
your boredom and apathy will be reflected in the words that follow.
love yourself. and that love will move your readers and possibly
inspire them on their own journey. it's not sappy. people like to
talk about what's 'real' and shout 'real talk' all the time. you
live with love, and write with love. and you won't need to tell
anyone it's real. they'll see it for themselves.

that concludes the 10 Days of Determination. i hope that you will
be able to take something from this series, and i had a good time
writing it and sharing it. hope you had just as much of a good time
reading it! until the next time!

Friday, December 23, 2011

10 days of determination: day 9 - surround yourself with the best.

i thought you might get a chuckle out of Dr.Doom.

but what that illustrates, for any writer - anyone for that
matter - is the need to have a group of people around you
who support you not only with words of encouragement but the
shining example of their minds and deeds. there are very few
people who have done anything by themselves. it pays to have
a solid support system.

i've found that my writing has only been strengthened over the
year because i've been able to observe how other creators and
artists approach their work and life. it's not a question of
mimicry; i'm not one to buy into the old cliche' that 'imitation
is the sincerest form of flattery.' what it boils down to is,
allowing yourself to become a sponge and let their knowledge
inform your spirit and subsequently, your writing. you should
never write with an aim to totally block outside influences. i
have been blessed to have many influences in friends and family
and even strangers to inform my spirit on how it should voice
itself in my work. and i hope to never lose that. make sure that's
a concrete part of your approach.

the last post will be tomorrow...stay tuned!!

10 days of determination: Day 8 - above the clouds.

one of the absolute wonders of flight is the ability to soar
farther than the eye can see. and you get that feeling every
time you go up in an airplane. if you're not afraid of flying
and heights that is. i find myself entering a state of utter
calm on flights once we break through the bank of clouds and
travel above them. it's an escape from whatever worries seem
to tether you to the ground...

for writing, you've got to embody this airy feeling. it's good
in two ways. first, you train yourself to enter a state that's
not totally about relaxation, but about getting into a frame of
mind that will allow you to effectively compose your paragraphs
and further illustrate the nuances of your characters. the second
reason is that you can also take up the task of being observant
about your work from an outsiders' clinical position. being a
bit detached helps because you wind up getting an opportunity
to imagine realistically how someone would view what you've
written. it gives you a decided advantage.

that's it for now...until the next time!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

10 days of determination: Day 7 - Focus.

this is simple enough...nothing can be obtained, nothing can
be begun or completed without a definitive focus. we take it
for granted as writers. some of us always think it'll be there
without delay. others fall into the trap of thinking they can
switch it on and off like their bedroom illumination. (i admit
i fall prey to this bad habit at times.)possessing a great sense
of focus is important. it can mean the difference between a
great written work and something slapped together like a bacon
and eggs greasy spoon breakfast. if you find that you have issues
concentrating, work on creating a routine(which i'll touch on in
the next posting)that will help you build up your attention span
and fortify any drop-offs in concentration.

until the next time!!

10 days of determination: day 6 - create a beacon of light

today's the first day of winter and it means many days ahead
where you won't be seeing the sun burn bright. if you notice
that your spirits drop a bit, you're not alone; medical research
has found that there is such a condition known as 'seasonal
depression' that exists. it can affect everything you do. so
how does this pertain to writers and writing?

some say that writers are a particularly sensitive breed of
people. i'm inclined to agree, only because that is part of
our toolkit to create powerful stories. we need to be sensitive
to everything around us and within us so that we can also get
those voices in our heads out onto the page. but we also risk
getting too wrapped up in our surroundings. especially now. so
i suggest that if things get too dark for you where it not
only affects your writing but other aspects of your life, try
to create a beacon of light to cut through it. one thing i like
to do is to get outdoors and walk around, no matter how cold
and overcast it is. you need light in some form or fashion.
another thing to do is to get candles and/or tealights set
up around your space. you'd be surprised how soothing that
kind of lighting is as opposed to fluorescent lighting. also,
if you find yourself down, borrow a practice from Deepak Chopra.
sit and imagine a brilliant sun beginning to form in your belly.
envision the glare, imagine its heat. let it become so big that
you feel it step outside of your body. the Taoists also use
this practice in channeling chi.

that's it for now, until the next time!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

10 days of determination: day 5 - stay grounded.

the image up top is from the hit movie, 'Inception'. the
spinning top. it was used as a totem by Leonardo DiCaprio's
character as a way to stay attached to reality while being
heavily ensconced in the dream state.

this applies to writing as well, in my experience. you should
always make it a point to stay grounded within the work. try
not to put yourself in a position where you'll be disappointed
if you don't reach your writing goals. that's happened to me
so many times i've lost count. another aspect of that is, allow
for the work to accept changes and that will make it better.
i always think about the one character in Albert Camus' 'The
Plague' who wanted to write the perfect novel but never got past
the first page. you have to be realistic enough to let the story
flow from your spirit as it should and then make changes when you
need to. and lastly, have pride in your writing but not so much
that you belittle others' work needlessly or out of envy at their

until the next time, enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

10 days of determination: day 4 - leaping

what's the first thing you do on a Monday?

besides hitting the snooze button.

you may grumble about Monday being here, having to go
work amidst people who are doing the same lemon-faced
bit you're doing. and it sticks with you throughout
the day. and it's a routine that you go through almost
every Monday. but, what if you approached it differently?
what if you treated Monday with some excitement? what
if you greeted it with vigor instead of making it such
a dreaded part of your life? what i'm proposing here is,
leap into it with enough energy to get through it and
not be worn out by negative energy.

taking the initiative to leap into something is something
every writer needs. there's moments when you'll get stuck
on a line, or a passage. you do the wise thing, which is
to step away and come back to it later. but then something
happens. you start looking at it as if it's a chore instead
of carrying it through with the same ardor you had at the
beginning of the work. for some who write, that moment can
ruin their progress. it's killed careers. personally, there's
some days i wake up and think of what has to be done and let
out an sigh(after giving thanks for waking up that is). and
THEN i get to work. because making your spirit take that leap
means you get over any obstacles in your way and in the way
of the work. more often than not, a writer's biggest enemy
can be their own lethargy. so take a leap past lethargy the
next time you face a rough patch with your writing after being
away from it for a while. you'll appreciate how far that
jump can take you.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

10 days of determination: day 3 - the art of verbal fisticuffs

Ishmael Reed said it best, 'writin' is fightin'.'

there's a lot of people out there writing. for newspapers, websites,
magazines and blogs and other venues. and you will find yourself pitted
against these voices and opinions and asking yourself if yours can
cut the mustard. in those moments of doubt, you need to take the
approach of a boxer in the ring with your writing.

sometimes that approach can pump new energy into your art. look at
Miles Davis, for example. Miles was an avid student of boxing; it was
a prime reason why he gave up his heroin addiction in 1953. the rigorous
training regimen helped sharpen his senses and timing and that became
steeped in his music from that point forward. you can learn more about
Miles and boxing here: approach your writing like you're going to battle. make
your sentences like potent combinations. work your reader's emotions
and connectivity to the story like a series of punches to the ribcage.
make your stories durable and able to flow for lengthy periods. and
most importantly, make sure your words always pack a punch.

10 days of determination: day 2 - enjoy the silence

one thing i think everyone is used to, no matter what you do
or where you are, is plugging into something to take yourself
out of a situation. the subject of this posting is to remind
yourself as a writer to appreciate quiet moments and the benefits
they bring.

in my case, one thing i find myself doing along with most of the
population of New York City is tuning everything out on my daily
travels. i've gotten so used to plugging into my iPod the moment
i hit the streets and the subway that i didn't know what to if i
ever forgot it. anyone who has ridden the subways and buses can
tell you exactly how manic and outright outlandish it can be. from
the mariachi trios walking up and down the cars, to mothers with
crying babies in mega-strollers and the ubiquitous beggars, the
subway can be really noisy. but in between, there's a certain calm
that exists. i didn't really appreciate that until one fateful
morning three years ago.

i was going into the office late after leaving late the previous
night. in a rush to head out, i left my iPod right on my dresser
since i thought i had left it in my jacket pocket. of course, i
didn't realize it until i was on the bus headed to the subway.
and i braced myself for whatever craziness would occur as i stepped
into the subway car. (for some reason, i seem to witness a lot of
craziness. i've come to accept it.) i walk in, find a seat and
settle in quietly. and during the 35 minute ride, i felt myself
totally at ease. i let my ears get used to the quiet charge the
train tracks gave off. i sat with the silence so much on the
subway that hearing the station announcements at the next stop
threw me for a jolt. i got some writing done, and even had an
enjoyable read.

as writers, we get too used to having to live with the noise. we
get too used to thinking that noise and activity create a great
mood for productivity. you start dreading quiet because it does
not inspire you unless you happen to be on vacation. nothing can
be further from the truth. silence, or situations close to it can
be a great stimulant. you can hear the voices of your characters
more clearly. you can take the opportunity to diagram entire scenes.
if you're writing fight scenes, you can take that quiet and figure
out how to choreograph them, acting the movements out if you need
to. (you might want to make sure you're alone if you do that though.)
like Depeche Mode says in their song, 'enjoy the silence.' you'll
be surprised - and happy - at what you find.

Friday, December 16, 2011

10 Days of Determination: Day 1 - Trust Your Gut

greetings folks!! welcome to the first post to kick off 10 Days
of Determination. i wanted to write these as i take time out on
each of the ten days leading up to the Christmas holiday to reflect
and bolster myself about my writing and what influences it going
into the New Year.

today, i want to talk about how you should always trust
your gut as a writer. for me, i learned that while in a
class on English literature in my freshman year in college.
we were reading Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'. and as
i read it, it rubbed me the wrong way. while well-written,
the words held a viewpoint of Africa and its citizens that
were, in a word, dehumanizing. i felt the need to speak up
about this. sure, there was a small voice of doubt inside
of me. 'you can't make a stink about racism in a accredited
novel and expect to be heard!!!', it said. but there was
this insistence, this burning feeling that said, 'you have
got to speak up. SPEAK UP.' now i'll admit something here
and now...i was born quiet, and i still am to a degree.
quiet to the point where it can be perceived as timidity.
more on that in another post. but i was blessed to have
been in a family that prided truth and telling it above
all things. and i felt in my heart that speaking up about
how i felt to the professor was the right thing to do.

the next class, the professor asked us to give our opinions
on 'Heart of Darkness'. after a couple of other classmates
spoke, i raised my hand. and i let her know that i felt
that Conrad catered to colonial ideals to the point of
endorsing racism. there was a brief, intense discussion. the
class afterwards, the professor made it a point to make
part of the class a special forum for discussion of the
topic - complete with a handout of Chinua Achebe's own
pointed critique of 'Heart of Darkness'. and from then on,
the professor and i had a great relationship.

if i hadn't gone with my gut, i would never have been able
to help affect change and assist thought-provoking discussion.
and that applies to writing, any kind of writing. you have
to be able to trust your own feelings on characters, plot.
if a piece of written dialogue doesn't sound right, rewrite
it. sometimes, i like to openly verbalize bits and pieces of
a story. if it doesn't ring true in my ears, it won't ring
true on the page. if there's a historical fact i feel needs
checking, i go and research it fully. trust your gut. because
that is where your words get their weight from.