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The Positive Slant On Business had “Spreading Love Through Business” about how we can use love to be more successful in business.

The Positive Slant On Writing featured “Absorbing Criticism,” inspired by a Hillary Clinton quote, about how we can use criticism in writing and in life.

Here on The Positive Slant On the Path, in “Physical Evidence of God’s Existence,” I spoke of how I see evidence of God everywhere. And how science even backs me up!

From the Files, Rants and Raves “Fanning the Flames of Fiction,” reflects some thinking and talking I’ve been doing lately about the joy of Fiction, for writers and readers alike.

Spring is in the air!  And the garden is sprouting.  It reminded me of my blogs. So I’ve decided to call it my garden of Blogs.  See if there’s anything you’d like to sample from it ~

Here at The Positive Slant On the Path Go For 5 – Some interesting facts about the number 5, in my ongoing number series. (599 words)

From the Files Scenes and Musings had In the Haze of Jerry Garcia – the scene of a show I witnessed in the early 80’s with the legendary guitarist from the Grateful Dead. (767 words)

The Positive Slant On Writing featured Organizing Peace Out of Chaos – how we can use our organizing skills as writers to find peace in other areas of our life. (362 words)

From the Files Rants and Raves produced America How I Love Thee! – a taste of my passion for the rock group, in honor of Memorial Day.  (1024)

Coming soon to The Positive Slant On Business – a Profile of Diane Lemonides, owner of Verve Marketing and Design, whose artistic vision and grounded family values guide every step of her business.

Not long ago, I wrote about how asking “What if” was a hoax.  I believe it is a fallacy to think you can outguess life.

But I’ve come to see it from another way, now.  The question of “what if” is as essential to writing as it is to dreaming.

What if a person like this came together with a person like that?  Science fiction is based on what if questions.  What if that happens is the genesis of most fiction.  What happens next are the stepping stones.  You can’t write much without asking “What if.”

This kind of “what if” can spawn more questions to ponder.  What if I could reach out to millions of people at once with my words?  What would I want to say to say to them?  What would I wish the result to be?  What if I could help them see things in a different way, a different perspective?  That’s some important information to have.

“What if” questions open the way for unlimited dreaming.  What if you could be a success?  What if this situation was exactly as you’d like it to be? What if you got everything you wanted for Christmas?  What if you could have the things you want?

Invention is birthed in it ~ What if I could understand how this works better?  What if I could make it more able to serve?

Service is born from it ~ What if I could help others expand their options, help them to lift their burdens?  What if everyone I knew who longs to be of service was given the opportunity to use their gifts for others?

These are powerful questions about what is possible.  And the answers, while not able to offer any guarantees, can certainly map the way for some wonderful things to happen.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

I just love index cards!  They are incredibly useful. At under $5 for 500 in a variety of sizes and colors, ruled and un-ruled, and a host of accessories, they really are cheap and cheerful.

Their uses are expansive.  I keep coming up with new ideas.  Though it may be old school, I have found them helpful in keeping track of my most important contacts. They can be color coded for business associates, colleagues, hot prospects, whatever you need.  They are easy to retrieve and more accessible for jotting notes than a spreadsheet.

But this post is about writing.  Most recently, I have used index cards to help make sense of scenes in my novel. The next plot point is coming up soon, but I wasn’t exactly sure what had to happen to get there. The order was unclear and the build up missing. There are quite a lot of scenes that I imagine might need to take place before the big swing in the action.

I began by labeling each card with a short, BOLD TITLE for the scene. Next, I put the characters involved and listed the points I want them to cover, the things I want to happen between them. There’s plenty of room to say whether I want this to be narrative or a full blown scene. I can note any other characters that play a role, a distraction, conflict, added tension or anything else that occurs to me along the way.  Whether I’m waiting in line or sitting at my desk, I can have these little cards nearby.

When I have filled out all the information I need, I can spread them across a surface and have a wide perspective of the action.  Seeing how it all builds, what scenes might be repetitive or need some punching up or moving around.  I have found, in the past, that I sometimes need to change the order to make them flow better.  This view of the action helps to see all these things.

If it’s all in the right place, I can begin to number the cards in the proper order. This way, when I sit down to finally write it, I have a precise guide, making the writing a whole lot easier!

This method can certainly be used in other kinds of writing.  If you’re writing a paper to prove a point, you can create cards for each of your arguments and see if they flow logically.  Each card can offer highlights of the points you want to make.  When writing procedures, the cards can hold each step along the way, making sure it all makes sense.

The first life lesson here is in seeing things from a broader perspective.  Too many scenes, (or anything) bouncing around in your head, even listed on a piece of paper can’t compare to the visual you can create with these cards.  Perspective improves your vision.  Being able to see the Big Picture you can make calls that you can’t from a single slice.

The second lesson  is about taking things in small steps. The gathering of the information into manageable bits that are easier to digest.  Chores, ideas, feelings are handled much better in small packages.  Organized and collected.  This helps the artist brain whenever it’s tossing things this way and that.  For big dreams and ideas, you can use 5 x 8 cards to whittle them down to human size.

1) Getting the Delighted Idea.
Ooh la la!  Wouldn’t it be great to write about this! You can’t really start writing until you have an idea (or an assignment).  In life, this is the phase where you allow yourself to be led by your joy.  Where does my joy wish to go today?  This is usually an automatic answer, something that rises up inside of you.  (Or is handed to you.)

2) Developing with Love and Care.
This is the time to get clear on what it is you really want to say about this anyway.  I have written about the exercise   Where you talk to yourself on paper about what you want to write, without worrying about “writing” it. I like to do this by hand, so it’s closer to my heart, more flexible.  For instance, you might say, “I want to write about the phases of writing.  I want to show that it can be the same as phases of life.”  Writing easily about it and inserting notes like, “What about making it a numbered post?”  In life you might see this phase as figuring out just what you want.  Getting clear on it.

3) Type it Up.
At least in this day and age, it’s important to get it onto the computer.  This is tending well to it.  Rather than leaving it on a piece of paper which can get lost or stuck with other papers, this is a way of preserving it, making it real.  Even if you begin with a typed first draft, this is where you can play with it – now that it’s on the computer.  As you type it up or read it over, you can flow a little more with it, come up with new ideas, settle on a direction, rearrange your thoughts.  When we tend well to ourselves, we prepare ourselves well for the journey ahead.  We take care of ourselves and get what we need.  We give ourselves and the piece our attention.

4) Refining and Revising.
This is the heart and soul, the work of writing.  This is where it all happens.  Making it “money.”  In life, we are taking the steps toward what we want. Sending out the ships, as Chellie Campbell says.  There are those who teach that writing is really rewriting.  I see it as taking the raw materials and mixing them together into what you wish to create. Working the dough until you get it just right.

5) Letting it Go.
This can be tricky.  But there must come a time where you need to say it is finished.  I like to review it one more time to make sure it rings true and then let it go.  In life, we have to trust and surrender to the path in front of us.  Let go of things we no longer need and let our light shine for others to see.

Thanks for listening.

I read somewhere that if writing isn’t drudgery, isn’t hard work, than you’re not really writing.

I think that writing is a joy.  I like to say that writing can not only make a living for me, it also helps me plumb the depths of my soul and reach out farther than I could’ve ever imagined.

The most challenging part of writing is figuring out what you want to say.  This is simply a matter of clear thinking.  The next step is to express what you’ve decided you want to say. This takes courage.  To commit to paper or screen where others can see and judge, takes some bravado.

One could say this part is difficult.  I believe though that everyone who has a mastery of a language can say what they want to say.  Granted, those of us who have written our 100K+ words may find this easier than others. Wielding words, after all, is what we do.  And surely we can create more poetic and flowing words than those who have not put in the time.

It does take time.  It takes effort.  It takes thinking and dedication.  But none of that is drudgery.  It’s magical.  Some might call it holy.  Making a wonderful Thanksgiving meal requires planning, shopping, preparing, patience, attention and effort.  But the joy of serving the meal to those you love eradicates any thoughts of drudgery.

When words come together in just the right harmony and resonance, there just is nothing like it.

If you find writing hard work, I suggest you take up something else.  You might try recording your thoughts and taking dictation to make it easier.  Or hire a writer who loves it!

This is, I believe, what got me to fall in love with writing in the first place.  I tend to think it’s easier to generate with fiction, but maybe it’s just long form writing that fuels it so well.  But anything, really, can pump the steam.

It happens when you spend enough time on a project.  I’m not sure of the exact number of hours.  It probably varies by the assignment, hormonal levels, time of year,  temperament, etc.  It no doubt differs from person to person.  From time to time, too.  Others may use different words to describe it. I only know what it’s like when it overtakes me.

Whatever I’m working on dominates my thoughts. It fills my head.  I can’t wait to get back to it!  I wake up bursting with ideas.  I hear passages or dialog in my head when I’m in the shower.  When talking to others, I’m usually working out how this could fit somewhere.  I’m even more in need of pen and paper than usual.  I’ll use cocktail napkins, paper towels, scraps of paper, paper place mats, matchbooks, whatever I can get to capture the ideas, revelations, understandings, new twists that come spilling out of me.

This steam not only takes over thoughts.  It is also the fuel that propels me forward.  I can get so much done with it pumping!  Whip through first and second drafts, full chapters, complete essays.  It may well push me through to the end.  Or until something comes along that lets the steam out. . .

I believe this is why National Novel Writing Month – November – is so important.  It’s a wonderful steam generator.  I intend to take up the challenge again this year.  The way I do it may not be as disciplined as some.  My process entails doing something on the project, no matter how small, every day.  By jove, by the time the 15th or 16th rolls around, my head is full of steam!

Shall we call it another illustration of my first rule of writing: Nothing Breeds Writing Like Writing.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could plot all your conversations?  Not knowing how the other person will respond makes it hard to write a script for it. But as a writer of fiction you have the ability to play with the possibilities, to make guesses.  Perhaps in this practice we will find the seeds for better conversations off the page.

There are as varied methods of this as there are stories, . Every author has his or her own way of doing things.  But I think the main points are as follows ~

1)  You need to decide what it is you want to occur in the conversation.  What is the outcome you’d like? Where do you want it to leave everyone and the story?

2)  Be clear on the points each participant must make.  This is where the careful plotting goes on.  What needs to happen first to move the conversation logically and easily into the next? Think about what’s possible and what’s probable for all.  What are the needs of each person here?  What are their motivations?

3)  Listen to what the characters have to say.  Don’t be addicted to it finishing up a certain way.  The characters might have their own ideas about where it should go. You can always backtrack and adjust.  But allowing a new direction or new path to form if the characters choose it can take you to interesting places. Your characters may well  know more than you do.  If you’re not so sure about where the conversation ends, imagine the possible results from it.  Does this new angle make more sense, add a new twist?  Sometimes you may find that it does.

But if you’re not completely sure take some time to analyze it.  The new direction might  look cool just because it’s surprising. (Especially if you’ve been heading down the same road for awhile.)  As the author you must make this call.  It is your story.  Is this new perspective really what’s best for the story, for where you want to go?  Like the way I must weigh the thoughts of my writer’s group.  If I have three comments – sometimes all different – I know I must step in and make the choice on how it will be changed.  It has to be my call.  (Hint: If more than one person finds something wrong, there is a problem that must be fixed. As the author, though, you need to choose how that will happen.)  Do so even with your characters’ ideas.

4)  When you’ve finalized the plot, envision the exchange to see where their bodies are. Body language can show motivation in ways words cannot.

5) Read the conversation out loud to see if it makes sense.  Maybe even enlist others to play the roles!

If you’re going to have an important conversation with someone where you are not the author, it can be helpful to follow these rules, too.  Think about what you wish to cover in the discussion, what your points need to be and where you’d like it to go. See if you can guess others’ motivations – what are they looking for?

In your next conversation watch carefully, with a writer’s eye to see how it turns out.  Listen well for what the other person’s motivations might be.  Make choices in the moment. Just like fiction, you may need to stay open for the track the conversation takes, despite your desires.

In all conversations, if you stay open to what the others’ needs might be, you can mine rich material for your characters and write more true-to-life conversations.  Paying attention to your own needs and those of others can make your real life conversations more effective.

It’s just the bottom line.  If you’re going to write (or make music, or dance, or paint or whatever your art) you have to make the time to do it.  (This post would’ve been up sooner if I had done that.)

So many well-meaning people say, “I don’t have time to write.”  Oh, they want to all right, very much.  But they never seem to find the time.  If you hope time will fall into your lap, you’re not likely to get much writing done.

There are those who say they need a good chunk of time in order to do their art.  I understand that.  Sometimes it’s hard to sink in if you only have 15 minutes.  But that’s all the more reason to find the time you need and schedule it.  If you continue to wait for a chunk of time to appear, you’re likely to find yourself with very few words on the page.

It just won’t happen unless you schedule the time.  Block out whatever time you need. And stick to it.  Okay, other things may crop up keeping you from doing it then. Just reschedule the time, like you would any important meeting or date.

There is a tactic many use to wait until they’re “in the mood.”  But that’s just another excuse.  You come to the assigned time and you put pen to paper, fingers to keys.  That’s how you write.  It can’t always be with inspiration flowing through your body, full of excitement and verve, eagerness in your fingers. You have to allow yourself to write “shitty” first drafts, as Anne Lamott suggests.  Someone once said, (probably Anne, herself) that you can’t create something good without getting something out in the first place.  If you truly are a writer (painter/musician/dancer/etc) you know  you have to just do it, no matter what. Nothing breeds writing like writing. Nothing gets you “in the mood” quite like doing it.

Time might be a good excuse, as there can be pressing matters which must be attended to, first.  But moodiness cannot be your excuse. Be careful, too, with those voices which say that doing the laundry, washing the dishes, or even being a good Samaritan, is more important than your art.  Sometimes, it is.  But very often it is a really convenient excuse.

If you truly do wish to create art, write something, get some writing done. In order to do that you must follow this formula:  Make the time.  Show up.  And do it. Simple.

There is a feeling associated with this statement.  I’ve not really been able to put my finger on it.

Julia Cameron described it like this, “. . . an appreciation for the work itself, the sheer joy and self respect to be found in doing it.”  She has used words like “dignity” to explain it or another phrase, “. . . about keeping our side of the bargain.”  It’s hard to really capture it in words.

For me it feels full.  On solid ground.  Going beyond or expanding on the concept of self respect.  It’s a centeredness, a wholeness.

Something about getting some writing done makes me feel like I have integrity from doing what I said I’d do. Maybe it’s a result of sharing my skills and talents. What I’m supposed to be doing on this Earth.

There’s a deep satisfaction in it.  From head to toe. Like a cool, refreshing drink of clear water.  Or after a particularly satisfying, tasty and right-sized meal.  Not too full or left still hungry.  It’s got something to do with completion.

It’s not like anything else I can compare it to.  Perhaps after love-making, except there is no grogginess associated with it.  I feel sharper, more capable.  I’ve gotten some writing done, now what?

I guess I’ll go get some more writing done . . .

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