"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: August 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chasing Our Tales

"Writing is a triumph of tenacity over common sense."

That's what my mother says anyway. Her view is that any kind of writing is a "...very strange way of spending your time, Robert. Why on earth would anyone want to waste their energy doing that?"

And this from a woman who reads like it's about to get banned. I've pointed this out of course. But though she loves reading, she thinks all writers must be a little weird to devote their lives to sitting alone and writing.

She's a more sociable animal you see. Her idea of bliss is to be surrounded by any kind of people, all chattering and yammering over nothing in particular, simply enjoying the closeness of others.

That, of course, is my idea of The Seventh Level of Hell.

Not that I intend to be unsociable - or mean for that matter. I just prefer books and writing and creating, working on artistic projects - and if I do need to go out and communicate, I want it to be for a good reason - like to teach, or learn, or brainstorm or dream and plan with others about a brighter, more positive, art focussed future.

I find stagnation - by which I mean merely existing in ordinary life - a very poor substitute for the joy of creating.

The Wind Beneath My Wings

Creativity is what inspires me.

Working on stories about people and plots I have 'invented' is what keeps me excited about life. Writing songs and recording music gets me too. As does oil painting...

If it's not fiction, I can become equally engrossed in putting together books and courses. I've always been this way. I wrote my first book - about chocolate and secret places to keep it - when I was four years old. I wrote it out by hand and bound it all with Sellotape - and hid it in the wall of my bedroom.

I kept diaries until I was eighteen - until I went travelling across Europe and returned home to find my mother - not that I want to sound like Norman Bates here - had thrown them all out. When I asked, in shock, why she had done that, she simply said, "What does it matter? They were only full of silly words. What were you ever going to do with them?"

What indeed.

I should have gotten the message earlier. Mom hated my short stories, even when I received awards from school and teachers raved about them. She didn't even like my artwork, paintings etc. She said I had no talent, and no right to express it, repeatedly.

To warn me further, she gave me horror stories about how writers were all drunks, ne'er do wells and drug addicts, propogandized that journalists were Satan's spawn, and that writing - in fact any kind of creativity - was some form of certifiable insanity.

But as all good parents know, you should never demonize a child's preoccupations, because it only makes them more attractive. So it was with me.

By the time I left home - after Mommie Dearest sobbed at my decision to forgo University and form a rock band (she insisted I couldn't sing) - my course through life was set.

Goodbye to All That

I guess mothers the world over want what's best for their children. They want to protect them from failure and disappointment. But I always knew that if I did what Mommy wanted - to get that job in The Hardware Store (seriously) - then I would be forever bored and frustrated by a life of 'quiet desperation.'

Much better to me was a life of possibility - a life that involved 'making something of myself'' - whatever that meant.

Today, I've got what I want. A past full of music deals, playing guitar and singing in front of thousands of people, acting in theatre, TV and movie experience and a heap of fun times to look back on and other crazy memories. And now, I've got screenplays sold, 30 bestseeling books and a myriad of courses published all over the net, a new band, and a head full of wondrous ideas for the future. Not to mention the best girl in the world at my side - literally.

Okay, I experienced the failure and disappointment that all artists encounter along the way. But I wouldn't have traded any of that for the whole wide world. Artists need to be tested, to be rejected - it's all part of the process.

To 'protect' me from an authentic life would have been tantamount to switching off my life-support machine.

Zen and the Art of...

We create the life we want - or at least we should try to.

Douglas Adams - one of my heroes - once said, "We may not always end up where we wanted to go, but, if we follow our instincts, we often end up where we needed to be."

I love that. Very Zen, but no less profound.

Okay, I apologize if this article has been all about me. I know you're not supposed to do that in web articles. I should have been focussing on you - my dear reader - and how I can help.

But I hope you'll forgive me just this once - and if I do it again in the future!

Maybe there's something in the above that you can relate to - and that in itself may help you in some way.

I guess if there's a point to this article it would be:

Never be afraid to follow your heart - and do what you think will make you happy.

Your instincts - and your natural talents - exist for a reason.

They're there to help you make the right decisions for the sake of your sanity - and the satisfaction you receive from following your dreams is well worth the discomfort of going against those who might want to 'protect' you from your true self.

Mother does not always know best.

Now Dad, bless him, was another story - and for another time...

Until then,

Keep Writing!

Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Writing Academy

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How to Get What You Want: Relax

Are you struggling to achieve your dreams?

Does it seem as if your perfect life is elusive?

Does you feel you're never going to get what you want?

If so, it could be you're missing something important.

Here are some tips on how to create your perfect life by adjusting your inner perspective.

You're Never Too Busy to Relax

When we're stressed and caught up in the complexities of living our daily lives, it can seem as though there's never enough time to do everything.

We're always chasing our tails, beating ourselves up over jobs not completed or done badly or tasks - like writing - that get squeezed out of our schedules.

If you're like this, you have to stop. Literally.

You must find time - half an hour to an hour every day, to unwind and get some perspective.

I call it 'strategizing time' or more simply, 'time to meditate'.

Meditation is not about assuming a lotus position and contemplating the universe in your navel. No, it's about deliberately relaxing your body and mind to help you better deal with life and everything it throws at you.

Feel stressed? Dissatisfied? Overwhelmed? Angry?

These feelings are illusions created by your unwillingness to relax and see things as they really are.

Taking half an hour out of each day to relax properly will help you see that there is always enough time to do what is important. The trouble is that if you don't meditate, you end up filling your time with the unimportant things that perpetuate a life you probably don't want.

You'll find that the more you purposefully relax, more time will actually appear - as if by magic - to help ease your situation.

NB: Watching TV is Not Relaxing

You might say to me: But I do take time out every day to watch TV or go to a movie or have dinner with friends. Sorry. This is not the same as spending a short time each day with your thoughts.

The object of relaxing is to clear your mind, remove the clutter and find some inner peace. This needs silence and alone time.

You need the space in your mind that relaxing creates - to assess your motivations and come up with a clear strategy for the future.

Believe me, you really do need to take time out every day to do this. Because this is how you get what you want - in the short and long term.

You need to get in touch with the 'inner you' every day.

It's too easy not to - and to completely lose sight of who you are, what you want, and where you're going to end up. And where's that going to be? To quote one of my favorite songs. "And then one day you'll find, ten years have gone behind you. No-one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun."

Wasting time is built into our DNA. It must be. We're so good at it.

Take back control - not by doing more, but by doing less, by deliberately relaxing.

How to Relax Properly

1. Find a space to call your own. If you don't have one, make one.

A small room would be ideal. If you can't manage that, then a corner of a bedroom would do. Maybe even the bathroom.

You need somewhere you won't be disturbed. Somewhere relaxing. Before I had a nice home, I sought out libraries, quiet bars and even secluded park benches. You MUST find somewhere you can return to - that you associate with letting go and finding inner peace.

2. Spend the first five minutes doing absolutely nothing.

Sit and stare into space. Try to quieten the thoughts in your mind. If something concerns you, put it aside, push it away. Make your mind go as blank as you can.

If you have difficulty with this, try gazing at the sky or a flower or a flame, anything that focuses your mind on peace. If there is noise, let it flood over you and tell yourself that you find the noise relaxing and that it does not trouble you.

3. Close your eyes and think about your breathing.

Focus your mind on the way the air you breathe comes in and out of your nose. Imagine that with each breath you are pulling in goodness and light and with each exhalation you are letting go of darkness, stress and worry.

Count down from ten to one and between each number, order yourself to relax, unwind, feel peace and become content.

4. Let your mind wander.

Often people misunderstand meditation. They think that if their thoughts are still chaotic, then they can't be doing it right. This is not the case.

The human mind is always thinking. You can't stop it. But, here's the thing, you can guide it when you're relaxing.

Remind yourself that, in the context of our vast universe, nothing is really that important. Nothing really matters as much as we might like to believe. We are mere tiny specks in the middle of an infinite cosmos.

Curiously, it is the revelation of this fact that ultimately gives us power.

5. Ask Yourself Honest Questions

As you contemplate the enormity of the Universe, and your part in it, let your mind seek answers to questions. Ask your subconscious mind for guidance over the issues that concern you.

Make it your intention to receive guidance from the Universe -or God, if you prefer - and commit to acting on that advice. Ask for solutions - and be thankful to receive them.

In your mind, discuss ideas with yourself, calmly, rationally and with patience. You have all the time in these moments that you need. Five minutes in this mental state is the equivalent of months of internal debate - and far more effective.

6. Make Affirmations

Remind yourself of your talents and abilities. Be positive. Be optimistic and know that wisdom comes from acceptance. And only when you accept your current reality can you begin to change it.

Imagine a bright future and yourself in it. See the world you can create and watch how you act in it, how you think in that place. Examine how a perfect you in a perfect future would make decisions based on success, joy and abundance.

Don't worry about how to achieve your goals. See them as attained and imagine how that feels. Even if just for a few fleeting moments, be the fabulous person you wish to become - and know what it feels like to be that person.

7. Come Back Down to Earth

Whenever you feel comfortable, at peace and most likely, happy, open your eyes and for another five minutes, do nothing.

Stare into space and take an untroubled look at the world around you. See the beauty and simplicity of the mundane. Breathe softly and believe in the power that is in natural harmony.

Know that being content is the secret to success.

Because being content opens your mind to possibility and gives you the strength to pursue your goals and dreams.

Hard work will often get you somewhere you don't want to go.

But being able to truly relax - and see things in perspective - will take you further towards your perfect future than any amount of hard work and stress.

Learn to unwind first.

Then take on the world anew.

Once a day, every day.

Till next time,

Keep Writing!

Your Success is My Concern

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What to Write About

What happens when you can't think of anything to write?

It's funny because I've noticed this is quite a common problem - for the newbie and the professional alike, but usually for different reasons.

Often the newbie will be flushed with the conviction that she's a writer. She feels it, she knows it in her bones. And yet when it comes to sitting down in her writing space, she wonders what she should say - exactly what should she focus on? What should she communicate - or at least commit to paper?

The professional writer too can get stuck. He may have exhausted his current topics of interest and want to start on something fresh. Like the newbie, the professional may ask himself, what can I say that is of interest to my editor, my publishers or my fans?

Both the newbie and the professional may get stuck on what to write NEXT.

Create You Own Emergency

Deadlines and external pressure work for the professional. Often working writers have no choice but to slog along on their writing projects because at some point in the past they promised to do a piece for another person.

There's nothing like the imagined feel of a producer or publisher's breath on the back of your neck to get you, if not motivated, then at least pumping out words.

But what if there's no pressure?

In 'Becoming a Writer', the great Dorothea Brande pointed out that writers create their own emergencies. They alone decide that a piece of writing must be done.

They have to. In reality, there's no need for yet another piece of writing. The world won't care whether you don't write. Nobody misses the bestsellers that never were.

That's the irony of writing. Writers become successful for writing things nobody realized they were missing - until they read them.

Writers need to create first and foremost for themselves. They need to feel a compulsion to record something in words that is important only to their own conscience.

Here, I think we're getting to the heart of 'reasons to write'.

Because once you establish your reasons - or, for the professional, re-establish your reasons, then the issue of what to write about can fall into place.

Find Your Passion and Embrace it

I once read a column written by Stephen Fry. He's famous for being an actor mostly but is surprisingly adept at stringing a few words together. (Of course his one time comedy partner, Hugh Laurie, is now much more famous - as the gorgeous Doctor House.)

But in the article, Stephen examined the problems associated with having no ideas - and what it meant to the writer.

His conclusions were vague (as you'd probably expect) but I gleaned that the artist in him was satisfied that he had created something - after he had finished the article. From nothing, he had created something of - at least - curiosity.

And that's the way it is for writers sometimes.

Even when we sit down with no particular ideas, we can create something of value. Not because of the topic or the story necessarily, but because we have a particular way of writing - or creating, even thinking, that brings something unique into existence.

From watching would-be writers' careers for all this time, I've become convinced that it's those writers who maintain a conviction that what they write is important - at least to themselves - that eventually succeed.

And finding what's important to you is the key to inspiration.

Examine Your Reactions

What makes you mad? What gets you going? What do you want to change?

At conferences, you will often see successful writers talk about what they didn't like about other writers, other books, other TV shows and movies.

Their dissatisfaction compelled them to write.

They felt that an issue was not being given sufficient space - or that a common view was being given too much credence.

They write to redress the balance - and give their own take on issues.

Often too, you will hear writers say, "I write to find out what I think about things."

Writing has a way of clarifying thoughts, concepts and arguments. That's the very least of its functions but no less powerful for that.

More importantly, writing is a way of revealing truth. In stories, screenplays and in non fiction, writing gives answers, it examines and illuminates, often the mundane, but also the profound.

If you're having trouble wondering what to write about, look inside of you.

Think about the things you care about - the things you have seen and experienced that have moved you - the issues you feel need further examination - especially if they bug you!

Then start writing, even without a plan or an agenda...

And see what happens.

You may be surprised by the result.

Till next time,

Keep Writing!

Your Success is My Concern

The Writing Academy

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