ST. AUGUSTINIANS? JACKSONVILLIANS? LOOKING FOR A COZY SPACE to host a literary event? Indie bookstore Read (Think) Books is the perfect spot for you! Located in quaint-and-teensy downtown Palatka, Florida, just south of Jax on the St. Johns, R(T)B welcomes writers, writing groups, and book clubs. They’ll even brew up a fresh pot of coffee just for you!
Co-owner Kristin Pegler says, Writers and writing groups are the spirit of a bookstore; we wouldn’t be here without them. Sharing ideas with other writers adds joy to a writer’s life and helps build that vital “networking muscle.” When writers seek out our store to inspire and enrich their writing process, I know we’re doing something right.
Central Floridians? Seeking the same? Check out the charming new Writer’s Block Bookstore in downtown Winter Park. Owner Lauren Zimmerman hosts oodles of author and other events—and I bet she’ll toss on a pot of brew for you, too.
THIS IS ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE WRITING PROMPTS. Jot down a time of day, a color, an object, and a season. Set your timer for ten minutes and write one, fast, unbroken sentence. (Hello, FANBOYS!) Let your pen (or keyboard) become a runaway pony. Hang on and enjoy the ride!
So, how about MIDNIGHT, BLUE, COMPUTER, WINTER?
I’m sitting at my desk, at 12:29, and didn’t even notice midnight tick by, but it did, and 1 a.m. will probably do the same, as I love the quiet in the middle of the night, and, to tell the truth, I’m feeling a little blue, so the clickety-clack of my keyboard, which makes me feel productive, also insulates me from my own morbidity, as if, when I’m typing, there’s less chance for the sadness that leaks in under the baseboards to crawl up my legs, scramble into my lap, and warm itself against the winter chill, which, as this is Florida, is nowise comparable to those winters in Massachusetts, blue twilight at 4 p.m., me treading the icy sidewalk up and over the Mass. Turnpike and onto wide, residential Washington Street, its houses lit warm and yellow and suggestive of hot dinners and families gathered, watching the evening news, while I trudge past, as if I were The Little Match Girl.
HERE’S THE SKINNY ON THE PLOT CLOCK: It’s a four-act “map” of a story, which can describe both the experiences a character is likely to undergo and her likely responses to those experiences. That’s it, in a nutshell. But time and time again, people’s applications of the Plot Clock have surprised and impressed me.
This was the case with Dr. Mark Winton, Criminal Justice Lecturer at UCF, who wrote, after a recent Plot Clock presentation, Thank you for the fascinating workshop. I was not familiar with the Plot Clock, but it made complete sense when I started thinking about an academic piece I am working on, where I trace the lives of two genocidal perpetrators and what led to their outcomes. It is really a useful model in studying how people become criminals.
To learn more about Dr. Winton’s work, visit his YouTube channel, Understanding Violence, where he discusses, among other topics, serial murder, sex crimes, and profiling.
A VAST, VITAL ANIMAL SWIMS BENEATH THE SURFACE OF OUR DAILY LIVES. Half-remembered childhood dramas and complex events we are unable to fully digest—all this, and more, slips into the great ocean of our unconscious and makes its home there.
In INNER WORK, Jungian Robert A. Johnson says, We believe ourselves to be in conscious control of our actions, relationships, decisions. But . . . these aspects of our lives are actually determined from a far deeper place. It is in the world of dreaming that their root sources are revealed.
In the murky waters of dreams, filled with unlikely collisions and overlaps, with things melting into other things, we attempt to communicate with ourselves. And so do our characters. As writers, a dive into a character’s dream life can yield insights into her unconscious, shine a light on her motivations, and reveal hidden aspects of her history—adding depth to her tale.
Unlike the Push-Me-Pull-You we engage trying to decipher our own dreams, when we enter our fictional character’s world, we may have the distance we need to crack the code and hear what she is whispering in her own dreaming ear.
AT MY RECENT PLOT-CLOCK PRESENTATION, we discussed how humans seem hard-wired to respond to certain story elements: the hero’s call to adventure; her failures leading to an all-is-lost moment; the changes she must make to face the challenges required of her.
We talked about mythologist Joseph Campbell’s discovery of an archetypal “hero’s journey” based on myths of many cultures and his book THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES, which reveals the commonalities he found.
Writer Kathy Elbert mentioned Lisa Cron’s book WIRED FOR STORY, and Cron’s TED Talk. And we affirmed our gratitude to screenwriter Christopher Vogler, who refashioned Campbell’s ideas, in THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, making of them sturdy tools with which we can shape our work for greatest resonance with that story-instinct that seems embedded in our DNA.
And, too, we remembered Dorothy, who was compelled, as so many heroes are, to find—against steep odds—her own way home.
WAS IT A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT? OR WAS IT A CRISP, CLEAR WINTER’S DAY? Does the weather in your story suggest an atmosphere of hope? Or one of dread? Here’s your writing prompt: Experiment! Set a scene in broad, benevolent sunlight. Then let clouds gather overhead. Or make a list of weather conditions that could influence a story: Impenetrable snow storm. Black ice. Gale-force winds. Downpour.
For example, once, obsessed by a boy a full foot-and-a-half taller than me, I called a Yellow Cab at the height of, yup, a swirling, impenetrable, eastern Massachusetts snow storm to carry me from Newton to Cambridge where he lived—as if in a fairy tale—with three disapproving roommates.
Then . . . the halting drive through sulfur-lamp pink-lit streets; the hushed breath as the cab starts its spin; the silence, snow still tumbling, after the crash.
Weather is a gift to a writer. How can you use it?
UNCLE BARDIE, AKA DON ROYSTER, CENTRAL-FLORIDA storyteller and blogger at Uncle Bardie’s Stories & Such, is “doing” HAMLET in 2015. Every Wednesday, Uncle Bardie will respond to some aspect of the play. For instance, did you know the first-ever knock-knock joke came from HAMLET? Or have you wondered if Gertrude furnished Elsinore from the original IKEA? Or why all those Italians were gathered in Denmark in the first place?
No? Well, me, either. Until Don brought it up!
So, while Uncle Bardie may not be a Shakespearean scholar (in fact, he’ll tell anyone who asks that Shakespeare has always scared the hell out of him), it seems, like Sir Edmund Hillary facing Mount Everest, Uncle Bardie will climb Mt. HAMLET simply because it’s there.
MY ARTERIES, BUSTLING HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS DELIVERING urgent messages—OXYGEN! ADRENALINE! ESTROGEN!—are set to full dilation! Why? Because I’m cross-training my creativity.
When I realized my daily walk wasn’t exercising all my muscles, I added yoga to my schedule. Voila! I was cross-training! When my daily journaling practice wasn’t exercising all my creative muscles, I added collage-making.
When you only do one fitness activity . . . you may discover you are far less fit than you think,” says Todd Schlifstein, DO, in a WebMD article. Writer Colette Bouchez adds, “Implementing a variety of activity into your routines almost certainly guarantees you will be much more functionally active.”
For me, this holds true for creativity, too: Yoga + walking = increased stamina and agility. Collage-making + journaling = increased creativity! For you, it might be painting-by-numbers or urban orienteering. Just change it up. Cross-train your creativity, and see what you make of it!
I GOT A LOT OF REST OVER THE HOLIDAYS and came back reset. I also recommitted to a daily journaling practice—three long-hand pages per day, as prescribed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, and it’s really made a difference. I’m both surer-footed in my interactions with others and more personally creative. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Now, I’ve accepted a challenge set by Seth Godin’s colleague Winnie Kao. The idea is to “ship” one blog post every day. In her short, inspirational video, Winnie says when she shipped daily throughout the month of December, she was more productive and confident all around. And that’s nothing to sneeze at, either!