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Two psychological laws from a list in Robert Assagioli’s book The Act of Will are:
- Needs, urges, drives and desires tend to arouse corresponding images, ideas and emotions.
- Urges, drives, desires and emotions tend to and demand to be expressed.
It’s the demanding to be expressed that struck me. As an author, how do I use that law to good advantage? Then it struck me.
How often have you experienced writer’s block? The phenomenon is a blocking–a failing to express, if you will–of ideas to continue the telling of a story. It is getting so far in your tale, then hitting a wall. Nothing more comes to mind.
The two psychological laws above suggest a solution to writer’s block. However, you, as writer, will have to become an actor. How so?
The next time you are stymied on where to go with your storyline, try this. Stand up and act out the role of each character, one individual at a time, in their actions, feelings, needs, urges (especially urges), and desires as you have written about them up to now. Become the person (obviously, you want to do this in privacy to keep your friends or family from locking you up). Get inside the person and feel the motivation. What are they thinking? Feeling? Smelling, hearing, tasting? Use their body language: stance, posture, expressions, gestures, ticks. Do this for each person in the story line. Be uninhibited. Get into it.
If you truly become the character and incorporate the ideals, zeal, passion of the persona in your role play, then, according to the psychological laws, the urges, drives, desires and emotions of the personage will demand to be expressed. A pathway will open down which to take the story. The character will lead YOU by the hand. Just follow–and write it down!
. . . and something will stick.
I used that quotation in yesterday’s response to Rarasaur. Immediately, I knew I had to share a motivational thought with you.
Having several irons in the fire can be a good thing, providing you are continually working to complete the projects. Eventually, you will finish a project, then another, then another. As a writer, this means that you will end up with several salable items.
This tactic only works for folks like me whose brains like to jump from one thing to another to avoid boredom. It won’t work for those who start things, but never finish them. You have to finish the projects. It’s finishing them that brings a pay day.
Rarasaur has a good method. She has a list and a concrete goal for each item listed; for example, creating one idea a day for thirty days for a book project. At the end of a month, she will have thirty possibilities to consider for her next writing project. Of the thirty on her list, one is bound to seize her imagination.
You may want to try the “many irons” approach to see if it works for you. The key to success is devising your own method to complete the projects on your list.
Here’s your song prompt:
“Scotland the Brave”
Most of September’s posts were prepared in August. Consequently, the inspiration I got from first listening to Bizet Had His Day fizzled as time passed. I made the mistake of thinking I’d remember the storyline 4 weeks later. Wrong. So here’s the newly inspired short story from the early September song prompt. Hope you like it.
End of Day
by Fay Moore © 2012
The maestro is talking to the concert audience about the credentials of the solo pianist. The musician is about to play “Bizet Had His Day,” a popular composition with the annual subscribers.
“. . .attended Julliard. . .frequent guest soloist with the New York Philharmonic, Washington National Symphony, among others. . .guest appearances on Broadway and television. . . .”
Enthusiastic applause erupts as the performing artist walks on stage to the piano and seats himself. The house lights dim while the musician adjusts the back panels of his tuxedo jacket, ostentatiously flipping the fabric up and over the piano bench. He places his toes on the pedals, stretches his arms in front of himself to unbind the fabric of his sleeves from around his wrists and levitates his fingers over the keys. Once the audience is still as a midnight snowfall, the showman begins, playing with passion and flair.
At the conclusion, the audience explodes, the concussion of clapping reverberating through the hall as the soloist leaves the stage, after taking multiple bows. Off-stage he is patted on his back repeatedly, congratulated on another fine performance. On his way to his dressing room, he passes the make-up staff clustered around a snack table exchanging gossip, jokes and plans for the evening. He backs up several paces and calls out to the retinue.
“Hey, do you know where there’s a jazz club?”
He’s caught them off guard, and they stare at him blankly like a herd of heifers. Finally, a heavily tattooed one states there’s a club three blocks away. The pianist thanks him, gets directions, then goes and changes his clothes. When he passes the make-up staff again, on his way to the exit, the entourage doesn’t recognize him: he’s dressed in stained jeans, a long-sleeved, half-zipped hoodie and a knit cap pulled low over his hair and forehead. He looks like the maintenance man.
Once on the street, he pulls a harmonica out of his pocket and presses the instrument to his lips. He plays the blues in time with his slow strut up the urban street. When he reaches the closest intersection, it is choked with pedestrians, out enjoying the temperate fall evening. Some are walking home from work. Others seek a late dinner at one of many sidewalk cafes and pubs dotting the boulevard.
The pianist is hungry. He shoves his hand into his pocket and extracts his wallet. It’s empty. No cash.
“Damn. I’ve been picked by some stage hand again.”
He sounds more dejected than angry. He should know better. It’s for this very reason that he’s quit carrying a credit card to performance venues. He’s tired of the hassle of reporting lost cards. He’s learned to leave the card in the hotel safe and just carry a few bucks in his wallet. Most of the time, he stashes the wallet somewhere in the dressing room. Tonight he simply stuck the wallet inside one of his shoes. Big mistake.
He pivots on his heel, and starts to retrace his steps. His hotel adjoins the concert hall. He rolls his tongue in his throat, mimicking regurgitation. The thought of hotel food nauseates him.
The proximate noise of table conversation, the laughter of bar maids, the clink of glasses and flatware hook him. He rethinks his options. The well-lighted street is full of people. Most seem in good spirits: walkers are unhurried, diners are outside, those waiting in line for a table are talking animatedly with those around them. It’s a jovial vibe.
He positions himself under a street light, pulls the knit cap from his head, and places it on the ground in between himself and the sidewalk traffic. It’ll do to collect money. He plays his harmonica with eyes closed, wailing notes lilting softly over the thoroughfare. He plays from his soul, undisturbed by repetitive clinks from a mounting number of coins thrown in the cap by passersby. It takes about an hour to accumulate enough money to buy dinner. In the time he’s been playing, the dinner rush passes. Tables open up at each eatery.
Carrying his cap like a money bag of old, he finds the jazz club, goes inside and claims a table. He piles the coins in dollar stacks in front of himself before perusing the menu. He meets the waiter’s sarcastic smile with a wink. He orders an Irish beer and a bacon cheeseburger.
His plate is set in front of him during the best saxophone riff he’s ever heard. The waiter keeps silent, but asks with his eyes about another beer. The hungry street performer hands the waiter his empty glass. He bites the sandwich to find the burger is cooked perfectly. The bacon is crisp, the cheese sharp, and the sandwich hot. While he devours half of it, the jazz ensemble’s performance sizzles. Great music, good eats; it doesn’t get much better.
It’s the day’s end he’s been dreaming of.
I want to tell you about a software program just for writers. The web site about the product is http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php. The program is called Scrivener and versions are available for Windows or Mac O SX.
The program marketer says:
Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.
The makers offer a free trial edition. Check it out.
For two days I have wrestled with a story from the song prompt “Lightning Crashes”. I don’t want to wimp out in my writing when confronting that which is raw and primal. Nor do I want to go down the path of describing a scene of evil, which is the image my mind keeps presenting.
I have told my brain, “No. Find something else.”
So I sit here, figuratively with pen in hand, with nothing to write.
That apology is for the persons who hated the song prompts in July. I’d planned to use song prompts for one month just to see what happened for me as a writer. I had such fun and created such a diverse collection of stories from the July song prompts, that I decided to continue song prompts into the coming months until I have a collection of 100 shorties. Then I am going to e-publish the collection.
That said, here’s the first song prompt for August–“The Good Life” by Three Days Grace. Lyrics can be found at the link.
What I have discovered is that using a diversity of songs as prompts inspires a diversity of stories. What an eclectic collection July’s prompts inspired!
My next trick will be to try using music to prompt me when I get stuck while writing on the novel. If it works, I will be so excited.
Gotta share news about a cool tool for writers who either write longhand manuscripts by choice or by necessity. The IOGEAR Mobile Digital Scribe translates handprinted text into digital text.
I learned about this device from http://perfectprivlisher.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/another-two-months-of-privlishing/#comment-17 .
In his post, the author explains his need to write out documents by hand. Then he uses this device to transcribe them to documents he can edit on his computer. He shows a handwritten page, then the same page translated by the device. The errors are manageable.
Check out his post for more information.