Empathy VS Sympathy

I have always been a bit vague on the difference. After watching this video I get it now. How often we give sympathy when empathy is what is needed. We need to be brave to be empathic. Sympathy is a cheap substitute. In writing we need to be empathic with our characters. It is also a useful tool in defining them.

Make a Mess

Some words from the woman who wrote, among other things Bird by Bird, one of the greatest writers guides there is.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. . . . Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here – and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing. – Anne Lamott

How often I have stared at the blank page afraid to put down a word,waiting for the perfect one to come.  It doesn’t, but when I write without thinking which is usually so messy I can barely read it.  The gems pop out.

Life is messy for a reason.  It’s more fun that way. Look at the kids eating ice cream dripping down their front or tumbling down that grass hill, the smiles and laughter are contagious.

Let’s all make a mess.

Plunge Into Your Creative Spark

Inspiring video with Phil Cousineau, chuck full of inspiration.  If you’re feeling a bit lost in your creativity or need a push this should light your fire.


Kurt Vonnegut talks

No more need be said.


Have You Checked Out of Your Dream?

We all want our problems to be solved, but solved our way and always the outcome we wanted. When you are in creative mode, it doesn’t work like that. Pushing and shoving our solution and not letting our subconscious play, can get ugly.  When things don’t go as planned, we check out, sayonara, hasta la vista.  Not happy, must find happy, hummm where is that?

Remember all things have a purpose and a meaning. We can navigate through our lifestorms if we keep that in mind.When you think nothing you do matters, slap your forehead and know that everything matters. You have had experiences no one else has had. You have noticed small details no one else witnessed the way you did.

When we decide to check out of our dreams, we need to ask ourselves –

Why do I fear the unfamiliar?  Am I unable to make my inner and outer life congruent?  Did I choose something today that took me in the wrong direction? Did it help? Did I do what I told myself to do? Did I rebel? Why? Was it a throwback to childhood? Does fear make me want to be in constant control?

You are special, your problems are special, only you know what they are and only the inner spirit of you know how to solve them.  Checking out of a dream is never the answer, its only fear.

All our final decisions are made in a state of mind that is not going to last –   Marcel Proust

Ripping Through Life only to R.I.P.

I spent countless years rushing around checking things off my list. Collecting life, not living it.  Putting it all neatly in one of my specially picked happy, serious, goofy, artsy whatever mood I was in  journals.  I did this jammed in between getting to work by 7AM  and returning exhausted by 8PM.  Writing with weary eyes as I  lifted my tired arm with my special pen that I knew would make my writing sparkle.

Then I made a major life change and quit my day job. My husband and I sold the condo, took the money and moved to Paris.  My land of dreams.  Now I would write, I had time, (which I always had, why do we forget time surrounds us?)  Anyway,  I put all that gathered info in my novel, but I was writing with a checklist.  Right pen, right paper, right chair, right structure, right grammar, right blah,blah,blah.  My writing was correct, it checked all the boxes as a story, but It was just a checklist put to prose.

I sat surrounded by rejection slips and nice comments  your style is good, you have something here, but needs development, good voice but needs more, etc.   I looked and looked where was that something. I was in Paris, had lots of free time, was surrounded by creativity and beauty, what the hell.  I cried, felt sorry for myself, cried, felt lost, got mad, felt worthless, cried some more, if I wasn’t a writer what was I?  Don’t you automatically become a writer if you move to Paris with the right pen?  Was I doomed to be uncreative?

As I walked towards one more museum to be inspired by other people’s art, it hit me, I was ripping through Paris, as I had everywhere else, checking things off – sit in cafes, eat cheese, go to museums, always have a baguette in kitchen etc. ripping through my list, I missed the seeing part. To see is to experience, to look is to direct your eyes at an object. I had been looking , big difference. I realized what was missing from my writing.  I took my time and sat in the space between no longer and not yet before I picked up my pen again.  ( the special one I can’t give up)

I stopped reproducing clichés and was totally open to life. I realized writing should be like a good photograph, an unanticipated image that reveals the world in a new light not another description of a sunset.

It doesnt’ matter whether you are in Nebraska or Paris, what you write with or on what, if you can catch fleeting reality on the page.  Seeing is being fully present and engaged, which can turn hours into minutes.  Life is short and always getting shorter, be present now.

Write Naked

No, not literally, well maybe, it is summer.  Play strip poker with yourself.  Read your pages. Are they authentic?  if not take something off.  Keep playing until you and your words are naked.

Real life is scary, when a dog bites, it hurts.  When we pussy-foot around and pretend it doesn’t, the reader stops because they know it’s not true.

A fear newbie writers often have is not being original.  If you reveal your naked self, you can’t help, but be original. Only you have your fingerprints.  Bravery equals vulnerability equals nakedness.

Ask yourself   –  (a) Am I saying the truth or putting on a baggy sweater?  (b) Does this feel smothered with scarves, gloves and hats or exposed and enticing in a teeny bikini?

Writing is not to hide but to reveal.  Take the clothes off your writing, let the air touch your words.   People connect with vulnerability, watch Brene Brown’s Ted talk on YouTube if you don’t believe me.

We come into this world naked and screaming ‘Hey world here I am’, then time passes, people tell us to hush put on your clothes.  We blush at the thought of going to a nude beach or telling someone that their dress is ugly.

Rock the boat,  jump over board,  Go skinny dipping

Then pick up your pen and write naked



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