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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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Art

So, the amount of research I have to do…..

…….while in the throes of going over edits is why the process of writing a book takes so fricking long.

Working on edits.

In answer to so many questions that I’ve been getting when I mention that Novel Now Finished is in Round 7 of edits:

1. Each manuscript is different and requires a different amount of time and effort to get it to where it should be.

2. Each author/writer has a different method to their writing madness.

3. Each editor has their own questions and methods of communicating notes.

4. This is literally the second editor I’ve ever worked with – the first charged over a thousand ($1000-plus) for two hours (TWO!!!) worth of work. Had I known my current editor eight years ago, things would be different.

5. This is the first editor I’ve worked with on a consistent basis. She’s amazing and helpful and supportive and everything you’d want in an editor. In my own editing business, I hope to be just as amazing as she is.

6. If you think writing is so easy-peasy to get done and published, then please, by all means, get some paper and a pen and start writing.

7. Writing a book is a full-time commitment. It’s not for the faint of heart or for those who lack discipline.

8. The amount of research I have to do before, during and after writing the first draft would qualify me for at least three MAs/MFAs and/or a PhD.

9. There are days when I just want to quit and torch the lot of it. This is normal.

10. ^^^Then I give myself a shake and get over it. I’d rather be writing and working in my fictional worlds than anything else, so the frustrations are a small cross to bear.

11. Writing is not a hobby for me – a hobby is something you take joy in to escape the realities of life. While I love and enjoy writing, it’s often frustrating and annoying and I don’t escape the realities of life – it finds its way into my stories.

12. Art is political, it is angry, it is savage and ugly and hard to look at – but it also inspires, gives us joy and shows us the beauty in the human spirit.

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So, about those creative blocks…..

……you have one.

Or two. Or more.

The project you’re working on that previously seemed to flow with ease and inspiration is now suddenly, inexplicably, choking and sputtering to a halt. You curse the blank page, the blank canvas, the uncluttered sheet music, and attempt to plow through.

But nothing comes out. Or, if it does, it’s only in spurts, like a car lurching forward, eating every last drop of gas and oil.

This happens to me more than I’d care to admit. I still work the story, still write down questions and notes that spring to mind, but the actual writing of it feels like plowing through quick-dry cement – slow, painful, suffocating.

This is where I turn to another creative form, to replenish the artistic side and allow my subconscious to work out the knots in another way.

This is helpful for every creative art form that you pursue – whether you’re a musician, singer/song-writer, painter, potterer, you name it – if the flow is not there, it’s time to rest that muscle and seek some other artistic outlet and let your imagination play.

My favorite thing to do, when the muse refuses to speak, is to do water colors or sketch or just doodle on scraps of paper.

Like this guy:

Pen sketch; note the rather arrogant look in his eye.

That took me about ten minutes or so to sketch out.  Because I’m a writer, I always have a notebook handy, either to write down plot ideas or bits of dialogue.  Most of the time, however, I doodle.

A lot.

The horse to the left is an example of my doodling.  It’s relaxing, takes me out of my logic center and the best part is that I’ve given myself a chance to unhook from the current project I’m working on.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a recognizable figure – a lot of the time, my doodles resemble swirls of…….stuff.

Other times, I simply push aside all projects involving the written word and just do ART.

Lately, I’ve been inspired to create on canvas the worlds I write about.  Not necessarily the people, although I’m sketching out a couple of ideas, but most definitely the locations.  This helps me define the geographical features of the area, as well as give my stories life in a new form.  I always start out with a sketch, just to get the general idea of what I want it to look like out onto paper.  This is something I’ve learned to do – it saves time and energy when painting the images onto the canvas.

Like this:

Rough sketch of Wolf’s Head Bay by J.J. Brown, Wordslinger

What you’re seeing to the right is a rough sketch of my fictional town of Wolf’s Head Bay, as featured in my novel, Secrets & Howls.  I’ve always known that it would be a coastal town, that there would be a lighthouse and a harbor, where the fishing boats were docked.  I also knew that the mountains that loomed over the town had a distinct look to them – wolves howling at the moon above.

The featured image of this post is the final result – only, there is no lighthouse and no harbor.  The sketch is of a more recent view of the Bay, whilst the painting visualizes what the area looked like prior to settling.

Except…..is it unsettled?  Look closely, there might be a fire.

So, the upshot of this post is this – whatever your main medium of creative output, don’t close yourself off from other creative outlets, even if it’s completely the opposite of what you do.  It will give you another way of tapping into your subconscious and allow you to find your connection to your main creative expression.

For me, it’s painting and sketching, with writing as my main creative outlet.  For you, it might be pottery or singing or photography.  Every creative skill you can find will always benefit the one you have passion and drive for.

Go find it.

So, You Need a Little Inspiration…..

…….and you’re stuck in place, unsure of which direction to go in.  It’s a frustrating and often suffocating feeling, not knowing what to do next.  Your creative project sits on your desk, silent and accusing, waiting for you to come back to it.

This is a familiar situation for me, and one that every creative experiences.  You’re not alone in this – always remember that.

When I’m stuck on a project, I like to travel.  Well, okay, thinking about traveling.  There are places I want to visit and just sit and be, soaking in the scenery, the sounds, the colors and feelings it brings up.  While I can’t travel to some places (yet), there are locations that are closer and more feasible to get to and enjoy.

However, sometimes I don’t even need that to jump-start my inspiration and creativity.

Here’s a creative challenge for you:

Pick a city anywhere in the world. It can be in Romania and have as its neighbor the castle of one of the most ruthless leaders of all time (Vlad Tsepes, aka the Impaler).  Or it can be an ancient temple in Greece, overlooking a beautiful beach and deep blue oceans. Or…..

Well, you get the idea.

Pick a city that pulls you into it, that inspires you to use all five of your senses, quickens those creative juices that pulse through you, makes you smile.  Even if you’ve never been there, you can utilize your own experiences to fill in the blanks.

For example – Secrets & Howls is set in a coastal village three hours north of San Francisco.  For various reasons, the closest I’ve ever been able to get is Morro Bay.  No two coastal villages are the same, as each town has its own unique personality.  However, the important elements are the same – the sounds of seagulls, seals, the ocean and harbor.  From this, I was able to build my own fictional coastal village, complete with lighthouse and jutting cliffs.

Utilizing all five of your senses and the creative medium you’re most comfortable with, pick a city and interpret it as best you can.  What comes up may serve your current project or inspire a new one altogether or both.  You never can tell.

Have fun. Happy creating.

So, lately, I’ve been feeling really angry…..

…..and it’s about nothing that I can put a finger on and say “Ha! I see this, it is making me angry and I will correct it and turn that feeling around to a more positive (if not happy) feeling!”

It’s more of a free-floating anger about life in general.  It’s a thought that hovers just outside my conscious thinking, present, but not the focus.  I’m not sure, really, why I’m feeling this anger, this hot brick of energy that sits squarely on my chest and in my mind.  I just know that it’s there, it’s wanting my attention and that I am going to have to address it in order for it to go away.

Or, at least, to put myself in control of my feelings, rather than let it (or any other feeling) have control of me.

This is where I know my art and my writing will help.  By putting my emotions on canvas, I’m acknowledging what’s going on inside my mind.  By writing it out, by creating a story with fully realized characters, I’m giving those emotions a voice.

This feeling of anger is not there without reason.  It’s not making itself present in my thoughts or my life just because it can.  Something in my subconscious really needs to be addressed and I need to pay attention to it.  Therapy can help, but I’m not in the mood for talking.  By talking about it, I end up feeling like I’m poisoning the air around me.

I don’t want to do that.  That’s exhausting for me.  I’d rather focus on things that make me feel good and happy.

So, art and writing it is.  Years ago, I wrote a thriller screenplay that was incredibly dark and creepy.  I’ve been toying with turning it into a novel and printed it out.  I’m making a bullet list of what I hope to accomplish within the story, how I want to format it.

That simple act is helpful for me.

This is something that I am doing for me.  If, however, you feel in need of outside help, please, by all means, seek it out.  There’s no shame in getting help, whether it’s to manage your feelings or your health or even improving your mindset.

Be creative and be active and be pro-active.

What are you creating today?

So, I get the question (a lot) of why do I write……

……and my answer is a variation on the same theme – because I can’t not write, because I have to, because I feel compelled to write down what these fictitious people are saying and doing and thinking.  But I always leave out the most important thing, because I find it really difficult to explain when put on the spot.

In addition to the reasons listed above, I write because I want to feel things.  I write because it seems that the only place I can legitimately express the desire for love and passion is in the words my characters express*.  I can say the things I want to say, without fear of rejection, by way of a character to an idealized fictional version of the type of man I find attractive.  I can be witty and pithy and strong and powerful in these scenarios, without losing my essential sense of who I am.  In these stories, I am writing to find the best version of myself.

I think, in all aspects of art and creative work, we are searching for ourselves, for that voice that seeks expression.  Having feelings, both negative and positive, are normal – how we deal with them is what makes us human.  The more I pour my feelings, both light and dark, into my art and my writing, the better I feel.

By removing it from my inner self and splattering it on a blank canvas or Word document, I am dragging it out into the light, taking away its power and giving it a voice.  It can sometimes feel like lancing a wound and letting the poison seep out, so that the wound can heal.  And it did, for me, when a traumatic experience worked its way into a story.  I had lanced that wound, that was slowly poisoning me for three years.  It was never meant to be in the story I had been working on at the time.  But whether I had meant it or not, my subconscious found similar elements in the story that had mirrored the circumstances surrounding my trauma.

I think, no, I believe, that is when I really began to heal.

Art is like that.  Being creative is like that.  Creativity gives us a way to express things in another form, if words fail us.  Don’t be afraid of feeling.  Express it in art and find your voice and your strength.  Find yourself, get support, have faith in who you are.

What 336 pages of manuscript (minus ending) looks like.

*It’s also a safe and productive place to express darker themes, but that’s another post for another time.

So, I’ve got a lot happening on my Patreon page…..

…….and I’m moving all of my creative work over there.

Right now, I’ve got two serial novels set up – the first is based on a series of true-life adventures that really actually never happened (but should have).  These are stories that I based on myself and two of my best friends from high school. We always had a lot of fun hanging out together and the nice thing is, we still do, when schedules allow.  This is the one thing about being an adult that sucks.

The other is a fantasy/mystery and the fun thing about this one is that there are four choices on what happens next.  There’s even a poll so that readers can vote – whichever choice gets the most votes is what happens next.  No votes, no moving forward, although it falls on me to have an overall arc, characters and ending.  This serialized novel and its poll are currently open to the public, but they will both close on March 15, 2017.

I’m excited about this next step in my creative development.  I hope you are, too.

You can find all of this here, at my Patreon page.

So, I’m enjoying the constant learning…..

……of my websites, from this blog to my Patreon page.  The joys of finding little things that make the process of posting a little easier.  Of being able to write as many posts as I want and not sharing them immediately, but scheduling them out a little at a time.  Of finding new ways to shape what I’m presenting to you, my audience, that will make you feel welcome and inspired and energized.

It’s not just the technical aspects, either.  The more I post, the more ideas seem to come out of thin air, some as solid and real as cotton candy, some with the substantive weight of a thousand pound horse.

Some of those ideas survive, some don’t, and that’s okay.

That’s known as process.

So, I’m excited about my Patreon page……

…….and what I have planned there.  A lot of thinking went on behind it, long before I even really understood what Patreon was about.  And the more I learned about it, the more I observed on other pages, the more I realized that this could work for me.

A little over a year ago, I decided that I wanted to write a column, so I contacted a local on-line zine.  They were eager to have me on-board……with one catch.  It was not a paid position.  Still, I was more interested in the process as a challenge than anything else, so I let that slide.  Then, of course, I started seeing stories about writers not getting paid for their work, whether it’s from small publishing houses or Pulitzer prize winning newspapers.

And that got me to re-think the column I was writing.

No one sees the work I put into my writing, except my cat and he’s usually asleep.  If I’m going to write for free, then I’m going to write for myself.  I actually turned down offers of having a by-line from another global news site because they don’t offer compensation, other than ‘exposure to a wider audience’.

If people want my stories, then I need to be paid for the work that went into them.

I know my worth.  Know yours.  Whatever your passion is, whatever you’re creative and artistic form is, know that you deserve to be paid for your time and effort.  Granted, if it’s a volunteer situation, such as community or college theater, that’s one thing.  But don’t ever sign onto a job that expects you to work for free.

You deserve more and better.

And so do I.

So, if you’d like to view my Patreon site, you can follow this link.  I am excited to see how this site develops.  🙂

So, my Patreon site is live……

……and I’ve posted some things there, so that it’s not a blank canvas to newcomers.  It took some time to work things out to my satisfaction, but I’m excited by how I’ve got it set up.  As time goes on, I hope to add to what I’ve already established.

There are a few posts that I’ve made open to the public, which I’ve done as introduction to who I am as a writer and budding artist.

Then, in their own words, my cat, Henry the Gray, and my horse, Best Bud Mare, will narrate their daily lives for those subscribing to the $3 tier.  I’m approaching it as an on-going series of children’s stories or bits of levity in a world that feels a little dark.

In subscribing to the $10 tier, I’ve designed posts that focus on my love for traveling and how I use location as inspiration.  Subscribers to this tier will also have access to the $3 tier.

For the $20 tier, I’ve challenged myself to write two serial novels. One is a fantasy/mystery and will involve reader participation – there will be four options and whichever option receives the most votes will carry the story forward.  The second serialized novel is based on myself and my friends as kids and the true-life adventures we shared in that really actually, never happened (but should have).  There will be a few other things there, as well as access to what is posted in the other two tiers.

There are also some posts open to all patrons who subscribe.

Right now, the second serialized novel’s first entry is open to the public, which I will close on March 10, 2017.

This is my site on Patreon. I encourage you to stop by and take a look at it.

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