Drowning in the quicksand

Today I talk about how writing is like drowning in quicksand.

Yes, you heard me right. Drowning in quicksand.

And yet you have to trust the process. It is the only way you might survive.

I’ve heard it said, though never *thankfully* experienced, that if you fall into quicksand, you are not supposed to struggle for that makes you sink faster. If you can remain calm, you will actually float. That’s certainly not something I want to test out. Ever! However, I also know that things found in the physical world often replicate things in the world of the interior self. Nature is often a mirror which reflects.

So when I reflected on my writing process this weekend, I realized that it really was a lot like falling into quicksand.

For two days, I fretted and worried over what I was going to do. This scene was important. One character had just expanded up on it, blowing my plans out of the water. Oh, this was good and needed to be done. I’d been seeing visions of it in my head for a couple weeks, I just didn’t know where it would happen and I certainly didn’t expect it to be during this one scene. I have barely three weeks to get this story together! I can’t have a section where I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have to get it all together, like now!

I talked with both my boys about it. Neither had an answer for me. I thought about it. I tried to program myself to dream about it; instead I had a dream about Robert Downey Jr. coming into my day job office. (Yeah, mark that down as an epic fail, even with Robert Downey Jr. doing a cameo in my dreams. That was unexpected and I certainly didn’t get my answer. The boys and I had been planning on going to see Black Panther then next day, so I’m sure Marvel movies were somewhere in my thoughts. Hence, Iron Man.)

So, finally, I was down to my last option: I had to just work on the damn story.

It’s hard when you don’t know where to begin or where you’re going. I don’t have to (or want to) know the whole path, but I honestly had written myself into a corner. I had the one thing that had been suggested in book 1 and I had the unexpected, both in the same scene. But how was I going to fix it?

I edited the story, the part that I had dictated out. It needed transitions and adjustments. It started to pull me into the story like quicksand. I was going under. Worse, I was thrashing about trying to free myself because I didn’t know how I would succeed. Remember, my time for drafts and failures is over for this book. I don’t have time for that.

Then I slipped beneath the surface. That’s when the answer was delivered. Like a shiny gem, unexpected and beautiful. It was something that in two days of wrangling I had not thought about at all. I swear I could have slapped my head at that moment too. So bleeding obvious! Especially since in fixing another transition, I had mentioned something that will end up being some foreshadowing for this scene. I will admit that I’m only realizing how I need to go back and tweak that scene as I’m reflecting on it, but it will work out nicely.

Yes, trust the process.

In fact, this scene is telling me larger sections of the story as a whole. It really is amazing me. I wish that this part of the process wasn’t such a struggle sometimes, that is wasn’t like labor: pain, suffering, over, miracle in your arms.

Yet maybe that is what helps to humble artists. If everything came too easily, we wouldn’t appreciate it when we step back to realize that we’ve created something from nothing. We might not appreciate the stories we’ve been given to tell.

When you step into the quicksand, you must remember to be still and let yourself float. The story will save you.


WII FM? WSIC? What’s with the acronyms?

Strangely enough, I think it’s the key to world peace. Buckle up and put your hands in the air. It’s going to be a wild ride.

WII FM? No, this is not the new Nintendo radio station though my boys would love it if it were real. It means “What’s in it for me?” and it’s the “radio station” everyone tunes in to. Actually, I think Nintendo had heard about this acronym when they named their Wii game console. Wii Golf = What’s in it for you? Golfing! Wii Bowling = What’s in it for you? Bowling! Wii Fit = What’s in it for you? Fitness! Yep, I definitely think they found the radio station.

WSIC? Why should I care? Simple enough, yet the ultimate question.

Keep these two acronyms in mind when you are working on your About page or your profiles. Obviously if someone has come this far to look you up, they want information about you. There is already a connection. But, how interesting is it to stand in the checkout lane at the store and have the clerk tell you all about the date she had last night? Not very. You have come to the clerk with a need and while she might be filling your need, aren’t you more concerned with yourself and getting out of the store and home?

We are all selfish creatures. It’s how we’re made. We need. We want. We must get in order to survive. I’m not saying there are no charitable people in the world. My best friend is one of the most giving people I know and when I feel my own selfish core coming out she makes me feel a little guilty. Still, I know that our selfish nature is just what humans are meant to be. It’s why we have war and political parties (whoops, no more to say there!). Every animal on this planet is selfish — it’s got to take care of it’s own survival. Heck, even plants will choke out another species in the area to survive. It’s also from this selfish core that we strive to help other people. My friend has a need to help others. Isn’t that selfish of her? Yes, in that it is what she (self) is concerned with (-ish). Whatever you (self) are concerned with (-ish) is what you are selfish about. It is the extremes of this nature that have added the negative connotations to the word.

Take this back to the Nintendo example above. If you are concerned with (selfish about) bowling and you belong the Tuesday night bowling league, are you going to be interested by Wii Bowling? Yes. Wii Golf? Well, maybe if you also like golf, but hey, you have those ten pairs of bowling shoes in your closet (for any type of bowling condition you might face) and you have shelves full of trophies that get dusted twice a day.

When you’re building your profile page, you have to remember that people are coming to you for something they are concerned with. It might be because they just wanted to get a painting to match their couch or they might need a vase for a movie set or how about a book containing the Miracle Pill to solve their unhappiness. What benefits does your art bring to this person? Don’t just tell them that the paint has a thick texture or that your book has twenty-one chapters (that’s a feature of your art). Tell them about the serenity others have gotten from viewing your art or that you can solve all their problems in seven simple yoga movements. Of course you have to know your audience well enough to say this is true. Do let them know why you are a good choice to help them out.

How do you do this? By making it relevant to your reader. No, you may not know them personally but treat them like you would your best friend. Go back to the earliest posts in my blog. You’ll see how stiff I was, how I was focused on me and how I didn’t want to let a reader into my world. There was an invisible wall. I took a class. I worked on building a better blog. I started exchanging comments with people who read my blog and got to know them better via their blogs. We may not be best buds, but I do count my readers among my friends. Notice how often I talk about “you do this” or “you do that.” Look at my use of the word “you.” It’s everywhere. I’ve opened up. I want to share with you. I want you to share with me. I want to get to know you. Those of you who keep coming back to read my blog, I hope you’ve gotten to know me. I hope I provide the content you want to see and what you need. I hope you fulfill your own selfish needs on what I offer here because if I’m not writing about the things that concern you and your art career, then I need to find a different focus for my blog. I could become one of those people who only blog about what I painted that day. Okay, in truth I’d never do that because I know there’s more to both myself and my reader than what I painted that day — and truthfully why would you actually read a blog like that where the person was only focused on themselves and not on their readers. It’s a cold way to sell art I think.

Wow! That spun off in a different direction than originally intended, but I hope you see my point. Blogging is about a relationship. It’s about feeding off one another (I have my unique talents and skills as you have yours — when we share together on a blog, we both grow). Your views may not agree with mine, so let me know and maybe you’ll bring me to a new way of thinking. I’m trying to change your way of thinking in every post. I hope it inspires you and makes you want to reach to new heights in your craft, to become better at what you do.

The only way we will ever have world peace is if we can quit being so selfish in keeping our own knowledge to ourselves and start being selfish in sharing ourselves with others. Only then will we begin to trust and help each other out. So when you put yourself out there to the world (as you already do with your art), remember to tune into your viewer’s radio station WII FM and answer their question of WSIC? Once they care, you’ll have a friend. That’s how a tribe is built. That’s how a civilization is founded. That’s how a world finds peace.

That’s it. Ride’s over. Get out!

Just kidding. Stay as long as you like. Let me know what you think.