Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Creative Spark

My kids and I have just watched a documentary on Netflix called The Creative Brain. I found it quite inspiring. The movie went into what makes us unique as humans - our ability to create. It talked about how creativity isn't about creating something totally unique - it's always building upon what we see, but bringing our own slant to that. They even spoke to a famous novelist who said that he never creates something totally unique. I loved that because, oftentimes, as authors, we feel like our work is so close to other stories in our genre. Yes, it is, but every book is unique. I know because I edit romance almost every work day. Sure, the tropes are the same - it's always about a man and woman finding love with each other, and oftentimes, the process of getting there is fairly similar, but the way it's written is uniquely done by each author, and each subsequent book they write. We bring our own unique life experiences to what we create. No one else's will be exactly the same. Every creation is valid. Each one is a piece of ourselves.

Recently, I posted on Facebook that I prefer a more beta man in real life and I prefer to write them. Alpha and beta are not great words and can be loaded and harmful in a way, but I didn't know how else to express my thoughts. Let's just say that I don't like a hyper-masculine guy. I like a gentle, kind, compassionate type of guy. I don't like the ultra-muscular types but prefer a man with a bit of flesh on him. Then several people commented that they wrote the alpha guys because they sell. And that is true. But I replied to one of the comments that writing is therapy for me and I don't want to write to make sales anymore. I think I became tired of trying to work out what sells and writing that, then finding out I couldn't get it right anyway. So, I will continue to write what comes from my soul, from my life experiences. Yes, I'd love to make sales, but after almost three years of writer's block, the only way to get the creative spark going is to write from my heart, from my feelings, from my experiences, and even more so write my deepest desires - what I want from life, from love, from relationships, from growing as a person. I want my characters to grow as people too - to become better people, just like I want to. I want them to experience the radical love that I want so much.

The documentary on Netflix showed us how vital creativity is to our well-being. It showed how prison inmates who were taught how to tap into creativity and to develop it, were much more likely to go on to live better lives. A struggling school came back to life when the teachers used creative expression and art to teach the students all the subjects.

That's why I continue to write. It's because creativity is vital for my well-being. Creativity heals depression, anxiety, listlessness. It gives us a spark. It makes us new. It teaches us about ourselves and about the world around us. Every time we create something, we are putting a seed of ourselves and our unique experiences out into the world. We are reproducing ourselves and changing the world. We are creating life. We are living.

Yes, it's not easy and we may fail many times over. They interviewed the script writer for Game of Thrones. He had failed many times before he succeeded in his writing. Yes, we may fail, but it is those failures which often propel us forward to our greatest successes. And it's in every moment, whether failure or success, that we are growing and experiencing life.

I want to take a risk, push the boundaries. Yes, I'm not always sure how, but I'm going to try it, one word at a time.

Monday, April 29, 2019

What No One Tells you about Menopause

Warning: rant below and probably only ladies will be interested.

Photo by Anderson Cavalera from Pexels

Why don't they tell us exactly what to expect when a woman goes through peri-menopause and menopause? I was just thinking about this on the weekend, due to a particularly bad "hormone-charged" few days. Or let's rather say, hormone-deficient three days.

When a girl becomes a pre-teen, she is often taken aside by a caring parent / teacher / youth leader, and taught all about her menstrual cycle and what to expect as she enters into puberty: what happens when you have a period and how you will feel, and what to do about it.

But no one ever sits down with a thirty-something woman, takes her hand, explains everything, and assures her that yes, it won't be easy, but she'll be all right as her body transitions into menopause. And gives her an idea of how she will feel and what will happen. All you hear are snatches of conversation from older woman complaining about hot flushes! And that they take hormone-replacement therapy, which apparently isn't good for you! That is the sum total of what I've heard my whole life except for one passage in a book by James Dobson I read years ago about what his mother went through at the time. That's it. (Please be aware, that I do not endorse James Dobson's ideas anymore - specifically about the LGBT+ and pre-marital sex, but this post is not about that.)

Anyways, I so wish someone had told me what would happen to my periods, and my body, and how that would feel. No one ever told me that my periods would get shorter and shorter, that the gap between them would get shorter and shorter and that I would feel worse and worse PMS during these short cycles, usually lasting 2 weeks out of the 3 weeks of the cycle. No one told me that this hormonal problem would trigger anxiety. No one told me that once the periods stop coming for a few months (and I felt amazing during that period), that when they do come back, you feel so sick on that period, and it's so heavy. And all these things are normal, according to a web link I found this weekend - yes, after all these years, I've found out that what I'm going through is normal! No, all you hear about is hot flashes. (Oh, and no one mentioned that when you go to the doctor multiple times to have your hormone levels checked, that they always say they are normal!)

I don't even know if I've had a single hot flash. I don't wake up in the middle of the night, sweating profusely. In fact, I generally sleep like a baby (yay), when I'm not anxious about something. Yes, my body temperature has changed the last few years. I don't feel the cold anymore and the heat is dreadfully dreadful. But I wouldn't call that a hot flash. Unless I'm having one permanent hot flash. 👿

No one told me that peri-menopause can last 10 years!!! Yes, it's lasted me years and years so far. I don't know when exactly, but I'd say close to 7.

Why don't they give us pep talks for menopause? There is a lot that a woman has to process. Not only the fact that she's coming face to face with ageing, but also all the effects on her body. And how to handle the hormonal dips, and the consequent affects on mood, and come to terms with her new self. And that it starts years before it actually ends. And that there are ways to cope, and you'll get through it in the end. And finally, when it's over, you'll be so happy to no longer have a period. (Okay, I haven't gotten there yet, but boy, am I looking forward to it.)

Note: Yes, I am trying out different supplements to help. I can't take too many soy isoflovanes because of my thyroid.

Anyway, I just want to say I'm grateful for my body. It's given me three amazing children. And it's leading me onto the next phase of life. I just need to learn to work with it in the best way possible. Anyone else had any harrowing menopause experiences?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How I Use the Tarot to Help me Write

So, the last few years I've developed a bit of an obsession in my spare time for playing with and studying the tarot cards. I've found the tarot to be a marvelous tool for self-development and just to help me through things going on in my life. The tarot is a fascinating thing. I think the old-fashioned idea that people who read tarot are dolled up in multiple bangles, a dark headscarf, hoop earrings, way too much makeup, and reside in a caravan with a large crystal ball, in a darkened and spooky room, no longer applies. It's not so much a niche thing anymore and has become popular in the spiritual community, enjoyed by many people of all religions.

Besides offering me some personal spiritual guidance, I love using the tarot to help me plot my fiction novels, or to help me with characterisation and well, when I'm blocked.

For example, I started writing Book 2 from the last book I finished - When Love Blooms. I had grown a bit attached to a secondary character in the book (Collette's friend, Rachel) and wanted to write her story. I sat down with my notebook and pen and started the "morning pages" way of writing. I wrote the first three pages and then stopped. I couldn't bear to write anymore. It wasn't working. Something felt off. I was blocked. I knew it wasn't the book I wanted to write, but I still wanted to write about Rachel. So, I put it down and forgot about it for a few weeks, figuring that maybe I'm not going to write for a while again.

Today, I didn't have any editing and after a long weekend, felt quite a bit more rested than usual. I felt like writing Rachel's story, but how? I picked some tarot cards from one of my favourite decks. What I like about tarot is that it contains the hero's journey - it's a story in pictures. It follows almost everything about the human experience. And I like to choose a deck (I'm a bit of a collector) that has beautiful art that I can connect with. The deck I chose for my plotting had contemporary people in it. So, instead of looking at the particular meaning of the cards I chose, as they didn't really apply to Rachel's potential story, I studied the images, and suddenly I just knew what direction I wanted Rachel's story to go in. It would take her to the country near her friend Collette. I just knew this was the right direction for my book.

This isn't the first time I've used tarot to plot my book. I don't usually use it for the whole book, but it gets me started and gives me ideas. I used it to start off When Love Blooms. I also like to use it to get a glimpse into my characters, but not as often as plotting. The tarot court cards are good as they show different personalities. If you picked out all the court cards, you could choose a court card for each of your main characters. It would, of course, help to have a bit of knowledge of the cards before you start. There is a lot of free material out there to learn tarot. Biddy Tarot has a lot on her website, there are dozens of tarot YouTubers (Kelly-Ann Maddox has a free tutorial series on tarot), and well, you can always buy a kindle book on it. If you can't afford a deck, you can get some free mobile deck apps. But it's always nicer to hold the deck in your hands.

I used to think tarot was evil. Yes, some of the cards may not be easy on the eyes if you use the old-fashioned original Rider Waite deck, but you could always buy a more modern one. I prefer the more contemporary ones as the images are much more relatable. Cards like the devil and the death card don't actually mean the literal devil and death, but rather remind us that we don't have to be trapped in our negative or restricted thoughts, and that with every time we lose something or things change in our lives, something new and beautiful is born out of it, kind of like the Phoenix rising from the ashes.

Here are a few pics of my cards, just so you can see.

Below is the inspiration I found for Rachel's story. Sorry the cards are so dark. So, in the first picture, there is a man at the door with a letter. In the second one, she's staring out onto the farm, wondering what to do, and the third, she is harvesting apples. I shall keep you wondering. I don't want to say too much about this story until I actually have it down on paper. Just feels like I'm jinxing it, lol.

Is there anything unusual that you use to help you plot your novels? I'd love to know.