Tag Archives: writing inspiration

A Writer’s Space to Breathe, Create, Inspire & Elevate Consciousness

 

This was my home office in London when I was a Parenting editor working remotely for a San Francisco-based publishing house. I was the first editor there, so helped shape the entire webzine, then became the parenting and pregnancy editor. I was also freelancing for other magazines and newspapers. All I know is this: I produced here. I was inspired here. One of my New York colleagues said she didn’t know how I managed to edit nearly 15 freelancers and columnists, write my own articles, do research, read books to review, attend meetings remotely at various times of the day and night and find time to raise my son and freelance for others. But I did. And it seemed effortless. My days flew by. I was in the zone. The vista, over-looking our garden in Notting Hill, didn’t hurt. I’d see pigeons on the trees, neighbors walking dogs, and sometimes, in winter, without the abundance of leaves on the 200-year-old tress, I’d even see the London Wheel. During times of writers block, I’d just stare out the window and after a bit, (now I know I was meditating) it would elevate my consciousness, spark ideas, and lift my thinking to what is possible—and not that of anxiety and fears.

This office space, married with my strict daily routine, fostered the ability to crank out deadline after deadline. Since I’ve moved to Los Angeles, had a baby, got divorced shortly after, I’ve struggled with both my office space and a daily routine. I no longer have a dedicated office space, as I live in a small beach cottage, so the desk is in the den. I still freelance for magazines, companies, and publishing houses. I’ve written two novels. I’m not insane. I’m doing okay. But I haven’t had that dreamy office space and I struggle with a strict daily routine. I’m trying to re-create it as best as I can. But I tend to write in my bed, here. I like the privacy and being away from a frisky kitty, but it’s a horrible place to write! I have papers strewn everywhere. There is no white board or desk calendar. The den desk in Los Angeles is tight and I have to deal with my boys and my hyper kitten. I spent quite a bit of money to turn my one-car garage into an office, but it has termites and black widows and is scary. It’s not my perfect space. Yet, how much does it really matter? Didn’t I create from coffee shops and libraries when in New York?

 

While feeling frustrated about the situation, I recently re-read Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott and The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield (These are must reads if you are a writer!) Both authors have amazing advice. Anne is humorous and I adore her candor and wit. Steven gives staggeringly revealing advice about the physics of fear. With that said, both agree writers over think it. We just need to write, wherever we can, every day. Yup. Create that daily habit and, as Steven said: “Put your ass where your heart wants to be.”

“If you want to write, plant your backside in front of the typewriter. Don’t get up from the chair, no matter how many brilliantly-plausible reasons your Resistance-churning brain presents to you. Sooner or later your fingers will settle onto the keys. Not long after that, I promise, the goddess will slip invisibly but powerfully into the room. That’s the trick. There’s nothing more to it.”

Although I miss having a designated office to write in, I will get my ass in the chair, not write in bed. (Even on days when I have autoimmune flare-ups). And, I will imagine that I am still a full-time editor at a publishing house, on daily deadlines, only taking breaks for the occasional yoga class that I teach or for a beach walk to garner inspiration from the Pacific.

I may no longer have the vista across London, but I can create that space in my mind— that feeling of expansion—and give thanks for this moment, this reality that flows with my words as I channel gratitude, guides, characters, universal angst onto the keys and into my next novel. And it all starts with simply putting my ass in the chair.

L xo

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Jodi Picoult’s Occult Mystery

Occult: adj: “of involving, or relating to supernatural, mystical, or magical powers or phenomena.”

 

Jodi Picoult’s 23rd novel Leaving Time, is surprisingly so much more than a moving saga about grief, loss of a mother, and the wonderful world of elephants. I just finished reading this nearly over-whelming book, even as her next block buster debut’s this week. Leaving Time has haunted me for a week since I completed it. Not just because it confirms what I’ve always considered: that elephants live more dignified, loving lives within families who protect and support one another. Or that love lasts beyond time and space, so when we lose someone we love, the love survives. But what intrigues me most, as a writer, is how Jodi interweaved the occult within the fabric of this mystery in a way that slips the unassuming reader—the reader who would not normally read a book with paranormal aspects—into the thick of the drama. Not until the very end do we learn that two of the main characters are, in fact, dead and were the entire manuscript. We are left questioning the dimension in which they lived, one where the dead continue living a bustling life which contains a world with school, family, binging, boozy nights, dating, money problems, work issues, rent to be paid, etc. It’s a dimension where it’s possible they (and everyone within it) don’t realize they are dead, and they don’t have all the answers, nor the ability to find the people they love. The notion that we die and all the answers are revealed, is turned on its head. The common held belief that our dead loved ones are a thought away, is also dismissed, as 13-year-old Jenna, the main character, searches for her mother Alice Metcalf, a scientist who studies elephant behavior. Jenna hires a broke, formerly-famous psychic named Serenity, and a washed-up, pessimistic, alcoholic detective, Virgil, to help her find Alice. In the end, we learn that Virgil and Jenna are both dead (as well as everyone else they connected with, such as Jenna’s grandmother, a policeman, a lab assistant). Yet, they all seemed to lead vibrant lives with other people in them, bars to go to, cars to drive, policemen to talk with, school teachers, clients, landlords, etc. But apparently their world must lie on another plane of reality, like fine line of ice below the surface of our perception, that somehow, Serenity can see. But even Serenity doesn’t realize Jenna and Virgil aren’t alive, until the very end.

 

Most of Jodi’s interviews about Leaving Time concern the plight of elephants, how they grieve, and how wonderful a metaphor their ability to grieve, is, to her then first empty nest at home. She doesn’t say what motivated her to create such a walloping metaphysical surprise at the end. Stories of the elephants are woven into the book via Alice Metcalf’s notes, that Jenna reads. Alice is a researcher who has lived in Africa, as well as on a New England sanctuary with her husband and then three-year-old daughter Jenna, when she disappeared after a tragic accident leaving one person dead and one mentally insane. Jenna, who was three at the time of the accident, can’t remember what happened and had to be raised by her stoic grandmother. This story alone, is compelling enough to be a best-seller with all the ups and downs of who actually got killed and who slipped away and why. And the glimpse into the world of the elephants and how they are tragically being hurt by poachers, is critical for the world to understand. See this video for example.

What I find ultimately puzzling, is how Jodi manages to pull together so many subplots and themes into one novel, without losing me at any turn. She tackles the occult and afterlife, the plight of elephants, a murder, mental illness, spousal abuse, infidelity, suicide, mother-daughter and grandmother friction, the struggle to follow ones dreams as a mother, and a daughter’s unfailing love for her mother, and the huge emotional and unbearable loss a child endures when a parent abandons them.

It’s a beautiful novel. It’s powerful. It’s unlike any other I have read. Jodi Picoult is only getting better with each novel. You need to read it.

And with a side note to my fellow writers, isn’t it remarkable to think that Jodi Picoult, New York Times best selling author (whose last nine novels debuted number one on this prestigious list) was rejected by 100 agents before one believed in her?

Keep going my friends. And read her book for inspiration!

To Self Publish or Not … One Writer’s Positive Experience

WofGrace

Today I met with a talented poet and artist who self published her first book in 2017 with Amazon, for less than $2,000. That’s amazing. And it’s gorgeous. Shani’s Whispers of Grace is a delicious compilation of paintings and spiritual poetry, inspired by her time in silence “with Shiva” at the holy hill of Arunachala in Tamil Nadu. Mystical, lyrical and emotional, Shani could have sought out an agent and tried to publish traditionally. Instead, she chose to self publish and to hire a friend to create her cover. As we chatted today about her next book, now in the works, we both began discussing the pros and cons of the self publishing route. As most of you reading this know, I’m pitching agents and have written three novels, now working on my fourth. Intrinsically, I worry about the costs of self publishing and managing all the self promotion, printing costs, pr costs, platform management and search elevation, contractual issues, etc. by my self. I’ve always held agents in high regard and read experts advice such as Shawne Coyne (who published this article today lauding what good agents can do: What it Takes: Art + Commerse = Better Art.).

 

But after speaking with the kind-hearted and spiritual Shani today, I see that in the end, whether a writer decides to self publish or pursue traditional publishing, it all boils down to expectation and time. Shani is happy to let her book grow organically through word of mouth referrals (including mine, buy it please!). She allows placement to happen organically within appropriate settings, such as spiritual book stores, or yoga and meditation retreat centers. As Shani said: “if I touch one soul, I am happy.” She isn’t bogged down by what frightens me: all the time consuming PR, self promotion pitching and travel and speaking engagements. And her work is doing just fine since she kept creation costs relatively low.

I love her perspective and choices. Because in no way does her choice to self publish affect the quality of her craft. In fact, I think this journey of Shani’s has allowed her to focus 100% of her time on her art, and perfecting that art, without worrying about the business side. She lets her art speak for itself—and it does.

I love this last line of her poem Song of the Self: “It is only the Supreme non-dual “I” that destroys ignorance and pure Knowledge shines forth as Self.”

I think all of us writers could learn from Shani. When one continues to write for the sake of writing and for the gift it gives us by honing the craft—while enjoying the journey—the writing will intuitively and intrinsically get better. And it is more likely that an author will make deep connections with her readers as well. From the heart-felt intention of creating an inspiring piece of art, for the sake of art, that art, in turn, will flourish and the right organic opportunities will arise.

Thank you Shani for your words of wisdom today. I can’t wait to see your paintings and your next book!

Namaste ~

Laura xo