"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: February 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dust in the Wind

Dear Fellow Writer,

I've been restless these last few weeks.

Developing and pushing new ideas to the fore. Succeeding in some but ultimately feeling unfulfilled by others.

The lure of writing is just too strong. I've realized I can do other things - but that writing is the only thing I love doing. 

More than love, I can't remain sane and not do it.

I need it - is that how you feel too?

I hope you'll forgive me for coming back to the Easy Way to Write.

I'm at home here.

Rob Parnell

Dust in the Wind

Rob Parnell

The secret to good writing is to stay in the moment while you're doing it. Doesn't matter which draft you're on - the first or the twentieth, you have to stay in the moment - the eternal NOW.

When you think about it, the past is a figment of our imagination.

We're tempted to believe our past has substance and influence over us - that it is somehow important, relevant, filled with meaning - or not.

The more memories we have, the more human we feel. Experience somehow gives us status, wisdom and power.

But really, to be honest, our past is a dead weight - and an imaginary weight at that. The past is gone. It is only as real as we want it to be. It is only our minds that give it substance. Without our memories, the past does not exist.

Like dust in the wind, the past dissolves, as it should.

Holding on to the past - and all the good and bad emotions it engenders may be useful to us when we try to create believable characters and scenarios but really, what else is it for?

If the past pulls you down and prevents you from moving forward - either by filling your head with disillusion, trivia or self importance or by placing boundaries on what you think you're capable of - then surely it's a curse rather than a boon.

Without our brains to tell us that we're on a human based time line, there is no past, no future even - except what we imagine. Without imagination and the vast recording mechanism that is our minds, there is only now, this moment, and all the other now moments that follow.

Think on this for a while and you should start to feel liberated.

Because without the reality of your past or the imagined pressure of a possible future, you are free. Free to be whatever you want, to experience whatever you want, to write whatever you want - now.

Right here. Right now. You are free.

Now is all that matters - everything else is a rationalization based on imaginary information.

There is nothing you cannot do - now, in this moment.

Now has no memory. Now has no ambitions to crush, no enemies to quash, nothing to prove.

Now is the eternal stillness at the heart of consciousness.

A place where nothing is important except your next impulse - the momentous spark of intention that creates and sustains life.

In order to write well - indeed to do anything well - you need to train yourself to live in the now and not get distracted by concepts of time, memory or ambition. You can only be as good as you want to be by totally committing to the moment, this moment, now.

Writing is not about showing off your flair for words or expression, it's about capturing the essence of what you want to say, the scene or person you want to describe. To do that well, you need to submerse yourself completely in the moment.

The most successful of our modern authors - James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, Stuart MacBride, Lee Child - know this and write accordingly.

To describe a character or a scene with any veracity you need to be there in your mind, to see every nuance, to be experiencing it fully - so that you can, with words, communicate its essence perfectly to a reader at some nebulous point in the future.

There are moments when the creative urge sweeps you up and you are intoxicated. These moments are few. Most of creativity is about sustaining passion for these moments that have passed. And the only way to sustain that passion is to re-immerse yourself in the now each time you write and edit and polish.

When you write in the moment concepts like show don't tell make much more sense. Most new authors write from the objective authorial viewpoint - some cold and distant observer recalling the past.

Good writers of experience know that this viewpoint is often passive and lacks engagement. Far better to make the reader feel like they're in the moment with the characters, the action and the experiencing the emotional impact of the interactions...

All this is a preamble to my next writing course.

I want to teach you how to create suspense in fiction.

Suspense encapsulates so many of the necessary ingredients to good quality fiction in all possible genres.

Suspense needs good characterization - but not too much. Good suspense requires disciplined pacing, and a great feel for what information to reveal and when. All essential elements in effective thrillers, romance, horror and fantasy novels.

Soon I want to invite you to become part of of my latest writing resource: "The Write Stuff: Suspense in Fiction"

I know I said that I could be moving on - into publishing, film and music production. And I'm doing all that...

...but the lure of my first love, my mistress: writing, is too strong to give up on her hold on me just yet.

Hopefully you know exactly how that feels.

Keep Writing.

 rob at home

"Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things.
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
The superstitious atheist."
Robert Browning

Thursday, February 9, 2012

You're Amazing!

Dear Friend,

Been doing some filming this week for a doco I'm making. Fun - but a different discipline to pure writing obviously - but it all starts there.

And as any TV exec know - just look at the front credits these days - the best people to lead any visual projects are writers, who often have the innate understanding of structure, pacing and form that writing engenders.

Once a writer, it's hard to break the hold of writing.

I came up with what I consider a brilliant idea for a novel this week - a sort of vampire meets alternate history adventure quest - started plotting it - but time, as always, seems to be the enemy.

I have so many fiction projects to complete I literally can't see the wood for the trees - or the paper for all the potential reams I would use!

I need clones of me - all working away in a back room, locked in until they finish their books. It's no wonder James Patterson co-writes - it's the only way to keep up with the ideas...

You're Amazing!

Robyn Opie Parnell

A lot of the time, I feel so happy I could burst. I love my life. I love waking up in the morning. I look forward to every day.

I’m happy with who I am. I’m happy with the way I look. I’m happy with my relationship with Rob. 

I’m happy with my home, my friends, my work and my writing—everything. 

If I’m not happy with something, I change it. Simple as that.

Nowadays, I only allow good experiences into my life.

I haven’t always felt this way. In fact, for the first half of my life, I wasn’t very happy and, to be honest, I wasn’t always a likeable person. I had problems with myself and other people. I struggled to get through days. I was often grumpy and difficult to get along with, and sometimes I was mean.

I sent all of this out into the world and I got it back.

Then I became ill. You may have heard doctors report that many of our health problems are caused by stress—negative thoughts and feelings. I realize now that I brought this illness on myself through the negativity in my life.

About this time, someone—who I now think of as an angel—gave me a copy of a book about the power of our thoughts. I read the book and experienced not one, but many light-bulb moments.

I’m indebted to the little angel—okay, he was a large man—who gave me the book. I went on to read everything I could find on the subjects of positive thinking and the Law of Attraction.   

But to read the books wasn’t enough. It was up to me to change and I’m so glad that I did.

Some of the books I read were old, written back in the early 1900s. Wow! We’ve known this information for a long time.

But we’re not taught this information in schools. Our parents don’t teach us. We’re left to find this information by ourselves. What if we don’t know it exists? How are you supposed to find something you don’t even know is out there?

If I’d learned this information when I was younger, I could have been happier and experienced a better life, instead of struggling for so long. Imagine what I could have done. I’m grateful that I’m doing it now!     

I would have liked to learn this information as early as possible, especially as I now know that this knowledge is as important as reading and writing.

The above reason is why I wrote
You're Amazing. I want you to have the advantage I didn’t have when I was younger. I want to give you all the help, within the pages of my book, for you to be happy and create your ideal life. 

Basically, every person wants to be loved, happy, healthy and successful. We’re human and, in a nutshell, this is what life is about—love, happiness, health and success. But a lot of people don’t know how to get these things or make them happen. In fact, many people get what they don’t want. (I explain why too, in the book!)

How about you? 

You’re popular, right? No problems there. Or is there room for improvement?

Are you shy? I struggled with shyness for the first three-quarters of my life. Most of the time, I was too scared to talk to other people, even my friends. I was afraid that I might embarrass myself or look bad in some way and that people might think terrible things about me.

Are you happy with your appearance? Do you like your body? I used to think that I was unattractive, even ugly. Did you know that you can change physical things, such as your appearance and your body, with your thoughts?

Is there anything you’d like to improve or change about your life?

Would you like to be rich? Unfortunately, some rich people aren’t happy. I bet you’d prefer to be rich and happy. Don’t feel bad if you want money. Your desire to have enough money will enable you to help charities, like I support several charities through my websites.

You can have it all. You can do anything. Best of all, you can have a happy, wonderful life.

Your thoughts create your life and the world around you. If you believe something—if you think that it’s true—then it is true. 

Whether your thoughts are right or wrong doesn’t matter. If you believe something, it becomes your reality. 

Did you know that you control your thoughts and feelings? You control your life. No one else does, only you. This is fantastic news.

Did you know that happiness is a decision? Right now, if you’re unhappy, you’ve made a decision to be unhappy. Everything in your life relates back to your thoughts. You can decide to be happy and you will be happy.

You might not believe that you can do so much good or bad with only your thoughts. But you can.  

You're Amazing will explain it all to you and how you can have a wonderful life. 

Yes, by using your thoughts in ways which are helpful to you.

Go here for more information on You're Amazing!

To Your Success!
 rob at home

”Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any." Orson Scott Card

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A is for Attitude: Move Toward Happiness

It's important to establish ground rules by emphasizing that it's how you feel about yourself that will determine your effectiveness.

How you feel about yourself is more important than where you are.

It's all very well setting lots of goals for yourself but if the thought of them fills you with dread you're not going to get very far. This is why most goals you set are doomed to failure - because what seems like a burning conviction one moment can quickly turn into a damp 'maybe' a day or so later!

The trick is to set 'aspirations' that make you smile and fill you with a warm fuzzy feeling that will last.
Born to be Mild

This is what Robyn and I learned on a road trip to Darwin. We were filled with love for each other - high on traveling and having fun when we sat down and drew up a list of 101 things we'd like to do in the following year.

There were good, noble things there like writing books and creating charity foundations - things we knew we had to complete. But alongside, there were less serious, even silly things like meeting movie directors and visiting the pyramids of the world together.

We wrote things down that made us laugh - like arriving in a limo at a movie premiere for our own movie.

And we think that's the trick - to give yourself goals that seem like fun. When you tell yourself you need to get a novel finished, don't stop there. See the book in stores. Imagine yourself at the signing - chatting to your publishers, your fans, the press.

Imagine the reviews and the Hollywood options that will come your way. Why not? You may as well enjoy yourself - even if it all seems like a fantasy. 

Because the subconscious mind seems to like fun. We already know the subconscious likes images - real or imagined, it's all the same. 

And if you plant fun images of your future into your subconscious, your every day actions over time will pull you closer to this new, fun reality.

Are You Ready for Success?

In order to be successful, you need to be ready for success. Too often, just at the point at which success is about to come bounding down your hallway, a little voice inside your head says, "I'm not ready for this." 

And, as much as you're sure you deserve a break, that you have every right to get more money and perhaps a little fame, that little voice will stop you from reaching out and taking the success you're offered.

Moving towards happiness may mean you have to think hard about your current life.

We're told often when we're growing up that we should be responsible, that we have duties and need to make sacrifices - that this is all part of being an adult.

But really, is this true? Do we really have to go through life miserable just because our parents, teachers and bosses say we should?

Pah! Look at it this way.

Say you're a father, bent on providing for your family. You work hard, all hours, to bring home money. You're always tired. Your wife rarely sees you and, despite all the apparent comfort in their lives, your children resent you for being such a workaholic.

You'd like to be there for your family but your work, your sense of duty, compels you to work harder - to imagine you're indispensable to your job. You're busy, stressed and miserable most of the time.

How much better a father would you make if you were happy first?

What if you decided that being happy was the most important thing? 

What would you do?

This happened to me:

At one point in my life I decided I should settle down, get a secure office job, a profession, and climb the corporate ladder. I trained as a corporate buyer and moved into contract management. My glittering future seemed set...

But having children changed all that.

When the boys came along I asked myself, "What kind of father do I want them to have?" 

Did I want them to see me as some boring office type that was unfulfilled and who whinged about the sacrifices I'd made for them?

What sort of role model would that make me?

Would they rather see me as a happy, successful artist that felt proud of his life and achievements? Wouldn't that make me a much better role model - someone who showed them, through his actions, that compromise was not the only option in life?

Of course I decided on the latter, despite any and all of the consequences. It wasn't easy but I made the change. I began writing full time, on a wing and a prayer - because I knew that my being happy would be what was ultimately best for the boys. 

And it's worked out just fine.

Being Selfish is Okay

Moving towards happiness is about being selfish, I admit. But being happy makes you a much more productive and useful human being. Being unhappy doesn't help anyone - least of all yourself.

So, think about what makes you happy. Think about how you can get rid of all the things - and people - in your life that make you unhappy. Seriously consider changing your circumstances to create your perfect life.

If you need more time to just be happy, make it so.

Why not? It's your life.

And you have a duty to yourself to be happy first.

To Your Success!
 rob at home

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Love, Your Partner, & Success

It's a truism that pop stars marry models, actors marry other actors and writers marry people with proper jobs - to help support their vocation!

The idea of marrying for 'only love' is wonderful, of course, but how many of us would choose haphazardly if we knew our artistic careers (or lack of them) were so dependent on picking the right person to share our lives with? 

Fact is, if you have any creative leanings and you pick an unsupportive partner, your life may well be full of frustration, bitterness and regret - and not a little resentment aimed directly at your 'other half'!

I remember meeting a guy who shared an apartment in London with Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley when they were a couple. 

He said they spent most of their twenties sitting around the house waiting for casting calls or modeling assignments. 

Despite having no real evidence that they would both end up being superstars, their faith in each other's talent, good looks and abilities enabled them to do nothing else but wait for the big breaks to come.

'Normal' people would have given up years before, succumbed to the pressure of the rent and bills, the need to conform to societal expectations, or even just got bored of the seemingly endless wait for 'the call.' 

But no, in Hugh and Liz's world, there was only one way to go: celebrity or nothin'. No amount of waiting limited their belief in themselves. Why? Because they had each other to constantly reinforce the aspirations and values they held dear. Hence, perhaps inevitably, they both 'made it.'

Society doesn't really teach us 'success education' at school. 

On the whole, that's not what modern schooling is for. It's designed to create the 'norms' - the 99% who will work for a living, be productive and 'settle down'. 

Trouble is that those intellectually rebellious enough to have an artistic bent are often left without help, without guidance. If artistic individuals won't push their creative talent into design or engineering or sociology, they're made to feel like outsiders - unworthy of our attention.

The logic - if there is one - is that if truly creative people want to make their mark on the world, they will do it anyway, whatever obstacles are in their path. 

The cream, it's thought, always rises to the top. 

Fine for the few with obvious talent, drive and an almost insane belief in themselves - but what about the many who harbor creative dreams but find they are locked into a society, an occupation or worse, a relationship that does nothing to fuel their ambitions?

I make a habit of watching celebrity relationships to help me understand the dynamic behind successful artistic people and the way they manage their lives.

Clearly, an actor is going to want to marry another actor, as opposed to, say, a chartered accountant, for one simple reason. The accountant will not understand the lifestyle of someone who lives on their wits, with no 'realistic' view of their chances for sustaining success, from one day to another. 

Indeed, 'being realistic' is often anathema to the creative artist's world view.

In my life I've had many partners, most of whom had no concept of this way of living. 

They may have loved and supported me - and believed in me, even. 

And yet, when it came to my creative projects, would resist any but the suggestion that the proper way to live was having a 9 to 5 job - and sticking with it, no matter the consequences for me emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. 

Simply put, they would rather I was miserable and with them, supporting them financially, rather than being truly happy.

I don't think I'm an isolated example. 

Many of my subscribers email me to say that they would have done this or that were it not for their partners, who saw little value in their aspirations.

I remember seeing Anthony Robbins a few years back. An audience member asked, "What should I do if I have an unsupportive partner?" Tony's answer was immediate: "Leave them."

If you've stuck in an unsupportive relationship but there's a degree of commitment and love involved, this is harsh - and probably unhelpful - advice. But really, it's the only long term solution.

The fact is most all relationships fail anyway at some point. Marriages have a less than 50% chance of making it past the first seven years.

Okay, a good relationship requires some compromise, some give and take, and trust, but ultimately, if you're not happy, how can you sustain happiness within the relationship? 

Besides which, doesn't a partner who truly loves you, actually want you to be happy?

Of course - but this is often easier said than done, especially when the poet, musician,
 playwright or actor wants just 'a little more time'.

Being creative is a compulsion in most true artists - not unlike an unbreakable addiction. It's not something that counseling will make go away. The urge to become successful as a creative artist gnaws at you constantly. Perhaps it is a sign of an aberrant personality - but it's the kind the world needs to properly grow and prosper.

I count myself the luckiest man alive to have met and married Robyn, my partner and soul mate.

Finally I'm in a relationship - like Hugh and Liz in their early days - where each understands the other's motivations and value system. Where the idea of having a proper job is absurd and where creativity and the pursuit of artistic success comes first for both of us.

Actually, that's not quite true. Our love for each comes first. Because, unlike so many of our partners before, we each know the other would never ask us to give up on our dreams.

That's a crucial element in anyone's success strategy.

To Your Success!

 rob at home

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Fame Game

There's speculation on E-News that the split between power couple Seal and Heidi Klum is not all that it seems. Despite the official line of 'having grown apart', both are still wearing their wedding bands and neither have filed for divorce.

There's also the convenient fact that both have much to gain from extra publicity at this point in time. Seal has a new album out and is touring to promote it. Heidi is up for another Runway Model show. Far be it from me to suggest that the split may be in some way manufactured but...

I'm reminded of a superb book written about how individuals can go about developing beneficial media relationships called "It" by Paula Froelich. If you ever had aspirations to be famous one day, this book is the only handbook you need. 

In "It" (2005) Paula, herself a reporter for the New York Post's entertainment sections and an Entertainment Tonight correspondent, spills the goss on publicity and PR - how it works and more importantly, why it works so well for attention hungry celebrities.

If you've ever aspired to get in the news, there's no better place to start than by reading "It", where Paula explains how the fame game works in practice - from the inside out. It's a fascinating read, even if you just want to have all your suspicions confirmed about the so-called 'news' we see about celebrities on a daily basis.

Artists, writers, actors and musicians are all better off these days if they aspire to manage the media, rather than fall victim to it. Better to feed the media interesting stories about you, rather than let them dig around to find something unsavory. 

Better to be the inspired source of gossip than its hapless recipient. In other words. make yourself more interesting than anything people can say about you. As in the lyrics from Seal himself, in his first release back in 1991: "Because we're never gonna survive, unless we get a little crazy."

To Your Success.

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!