Luring Your Muse

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

This blog first appeared on Writer’s Fun Zone

I’m not a fan of Sara Gilbert per se, but she delivered a great TED talk on the Muse.  Based on that talk (the Muse must have been pleased with her TED talk) she has a book, Big Magic.  I bought it hard cover, I’ve read the whole thing, I liked it much better than that other book of hers.  I talk about the Muse all the time, and Gilbert does a good job defining the Muse and what it means for authors.Blog by Catharine Bramkamp

In the past, writers and artists were not so much responsible for their creative work as they were honored to be the instruments of creative inspiration. The artist was simply a medium for a greater power to flow through them and create work that needed to be born into the world.

As passive as that sounds – that we are merely hands, eyes and bodies at the service of a capricious god, it does take some of the pressure off.

If we are channeling the Muse, then a dry spell, the inability to produce great art, is not entirely the direct result of bad character or lack of will power.  However, it may mean that you angered your god.

Think back, did you  leave the right offering at the feet of your Muse?  Did you remember to thank her for the last creative rush, the one that left you exhausted and spent but also gloriously alive?

Did you wait around, burning your incense, leaving cookies and brandy, yet  she never came and you just spent a month staring at a blank screen?   And now you’re pissed?

That’ s the conundrum.  Wait for inspiration?  Worship, pray and hope?  Or, as Jack London suggested, hunt down inspiration with a bat.   

You don’t need a bat. It is possible to encourage the Muse to visit on a daily basis.  Contrary to popular lore, the Muse responds well to schedules.  She will often drop  by at the same time each day.  Your job is to discover when that is and be there when she visits.

Gertrude Stein once said of the writing process, “It will come if it is there and if you will let it come.”

But for the writing to come, you may have to nudge it along by finding a consistent source of inspiration. Stein claimed her best ideas came to her while she was driving around in her car looking at cows. She would write for only 30 minutes a day, driving around a farm and stopping at different cows until she found the one that most fit her mood.

Barring counting cows  follow the advice of many, including me: show up.

If the Muse knows you’re home, she is more likely to stop by.

For the first weeks, you may show up in good faith but the Muse may not reciprocate.  She may  be wandering around your house, checking the base boards for dust, reading the books in your library and judging if you are really serious, or if you’re actually playing Candy Crush and it just looks like you’re working.  The Muse is not that easily fooled.  To attract the Muse, you need to be writing.

And by writing I mean anything you want, anything that comes to mind. Like warming up the water in the shower, you turn on the words, let them flow and pretty soon  they will become the right temperature, and you then can step into the shower and relish the flow.

I believe in the Muse, I believe in luring her to my side with promises of wine, chocolate, and attentive listening.  I believe in thanking her for her efforts on my behalf. And if I could, I would book her as a guest on Newbie Writers Podcast.

Make your offering today.  Your writing will start to improve by tomorrow.  I swear by the wild red hair of my Muse.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
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What Part of the Test – Instagram Poem

Instagram poem
To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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When Your Characters Go Rouge

From our upcoming book –
Don’t Write Like We Talk
What we learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Why characters matter, Catharine BramkampYou have your character all figured out. You’ve even created the hero according to last week’s suggestion of deconstructing the characters in a comic book

Some authors identify their characters by zodiac sign.

Some write extensive backgrounds, time lines, favorite pets, the parent’s story.

We write long biographies for every character who appears in the story.
All of this work can be excellent exercises, and valuable as you flex your writing muscles; however, most writers will confess that their characters, the good characters, are not so easily controlled. What many of us have discovered: as soon as you think you know everything about your character and as soon as you sit down and think, well today my character will drive to the store fight a dragon, and fall in love with the prince — they suddenly will not cooperate.

Like children, fictional characters are strangely resistant to The Plan. You remember the week after your precious bundles of joy showed up? You created the ultimate calendar of success based on the 98 books on child rearing you  read during the last nine months.  You tracked to the hour  developmental benchmarks.  You wavered between placing the child in the advanced  Yellow Tiger class or holding him back for another six months as a Blue Bear.

You delivered multiple children to multiple lessons:  piano, trumpet, bongo. You spent months of your life driving  to band, ballet, tumbling practices. You  spent hours cheering from the side lines during little league, soccer, la cross.  And what happened?  At twenty, your precious bundle announced he wants to be a chicken farmer, an option markedly absent from the Goals List (subtitled Acceptable Careers Mom Thinks You Should Pursue).   

Fictional characters will do much the same thing. Characters in your story   or novel will just blurt out comments, pursue the villain down unmarked streets and race so quickly away from your expectations that you have no choice but to just hold on for the ride.

Take notes along the way.
As traits and details about your characters emerge, just keep track.
Create a running reference list chronicling his coffee preference, her favorite drink, what she hates, what he’s afraid of.
Remember to note her eye color or if she starts flipping back her hair when she’s stressed.
These notes will help with consistency as well as keeping your hero and heroine on track, not your track of course, but theirs.
The picture will emerge. Sketch it out as your character comes into focus.

Someone needs to farm those chickens.   

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
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TBT Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has to be the ultimate Throw Back Thursday.

Of course there are photos.  And after all the effort putting out the good china, aligning the silver (with that ruler from the opening credits of Downton Abbey) and family crystal, by god, I’m taking a photo of the table. You may also take photos of the food because you work All Fucking Day on a meal that drunk relatives consumed in a manner of minutes.

Ah, good times, fond memories.

Happy Thanksgiving – remember to make up stories to entertain the family members who were actually there but don’t remember the event in quite the same way.

Catharine's Family 2015

My two sons, their wives both of whom kept their own names (good job ladies!), my husband and our granddaughter.

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Unmistakable After School

Instagram poem
To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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Why Your Characters Matter

“First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him.”

~Ray Bradbury

Ask me about a favorite book – and I’ll describe the heroine.

We often, if pressed, remember key points of a plot, but what really sticks in our heads are the characters.  We remember the who over the how, and before the what.   

Do we love Jane Austen’s books because of the  intricate plots? Not really.

The story? Please, we know the story. What we love are the characters, the strong women who get into trouble because they blurt out what they are thinking, the handsome hero who is just misunderstood, the spunky friend for whom we wish as much happiness as we wish for the heroine. We may not relate to the plot, but we certainly identify with a well developed character.

Listen to what you say when you play a movie for the fifth time, it’s not

about the plot or the story — you just want to see the hero or heroine again.

“I love him.” You murmur under your breath.

That said, how on earth do you do it?

One way is to open a comic book. (Bonus, the trip to the comic store can be called research.  You’re welcome.)

Comics have great heroes.  Take a look at three or four heroes and deconstruct them:

What motivates them?Why characters matter, Catharine Bramkamp

What do they look like?

What are their tags?

What is their super power?

Their kryptonite?

Love interest?

Why do they wear a mask? (Think of this metaphorically for your own heroine)

As simplistic as is sounds, just taking a look at Iron Man, Batman, and/or Cat Woman can give you a strong idea of how to create an equally strong character.

Once you have your character, start throwing obstacles at them, and watch what they do.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
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I’ll Probably Die of Something – Instagram poem

Instagram Poem

For the record, this poem is not inspired by my current love.  But it did come to me, so I’m honoring the impulse.  Maybe it is about your relationship?

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
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How to Start Writing A Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poetsStarting Your book by Catharine Bramkamp

Just start.  Sometimes we get caught up in the promotion and the expectations for our books, because they are like children.  We incubate the tiny human for nine months, they are painfully born and here they are!  And before we’ve spent any time at all getting acquainted, we think, ah, this child will be a police officer, construction worker, cowboy or Indian chief.  And we will be so proud.  You picture the graduations from multiple universities. You picture yourself bragging to your friends about your wonderful child who is wonderful because you are the perfect parent.

This child will live all the dreams you were forced to defer.

This child will make the income that eluded you.

This child will take advantage of new technologies, new attitudes, and better fashion.

And on her second birthday, the child will demonstrate that no, no she will not.  And all  you are left with  is sixteen years to get used to your dissapointment.

Yeah, writing a book is just like that. All those expectations about publishing?  Like as soon as your book is published you will become younger, thiner, and richer?  May not pan out.  All those hopes for a transformative experience the minute the book is accepted for publication?  You still must do the laundry.

And all those  accolades?   People don’t really care that much, they don’t understand the process or the effort.  Oh, you wrote a book.  I just won third place in the local rodeo for roping tanks.  And the both of you stand there and you think, my kid said something about wanting to rope inanimate objects. 

You cannot control the outcomes. Not for your book and not for your child.  But as you know, you can control the daily interaction.  You can listen to your child, you can take them out on adventures, you can love them.

You can be in every moment possible.

That’s how you manage any great big huge project.

Once you let go of the outcome (I know, sounds kind of zen, and it kind of is), then you can concentrate on the work.  Decide what you want from the writing experience.  Do you have something to say?  Begin by saying it.  Do you have  a beef against the small cowboy child who yesterday  roped  the  full coffee maker?  Write about that.    

You start because there is something about doing that will feed your soul.  You begin because you are essentially raising a book and it’s all about the daily tasks and efforts.

Think of book  publication as  High School Graduation.  You are finished with all the daily work, all the moments, all the concentration, all the homework.  And now the child and the book have graduated – it’s official. 

I would like to say that now the work is done.  But it’s not. The work has just changed.

Believe me, it’s more fun to do the first phase, the writing phase, than the second, the post publication phase.  As my friend commented, the hardest years for raising a boy is between 18 and 23, because all you can do is take the call that starts with “I’m okay”.

To learn more.
Visit us on ITunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
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TBT- Batman China

img_9839From 1987 to 89 I wrote a weekly column for the local paper.  I know, that whole sentence that reeks of nostalgic and ancient terms:  1980, newspaper, column. Think of it as an early blog. Only with more readers.   For Throwback Thursday I thought you’d enjoy a taste of the past.  I don’t know how much I enjoy reading over my old material.  But it’s interesting to learn how little things really change.  Comment if you agree or disagree, then dig out your scrunchie  and welcome to the 80s.

I had forgotten about the Batman China.  I still have it, I still use it.  Did you know that if you  put that gold rimmed china repeatedly in the dishwasher that over 30 or so years the gold actually tarnishes?  This kind of thing never happened to Batman.  But damn, there was no way I was hand washing all those dishes at midnight on Thanksgiving, not when I had to get up early to shop on Black Friday.

So for 30 something years, into the dishwasher that china went.  It looks a bit worse for wear. But then again,  I’ve used it.  I use it for casual Saturday dinners. I use it for friends. I serve burgers on it.

I use it because to save something like that for special occasions seems like such a waste.

Almost as pointless as acquiring something so expensive and delicate in the first place.

But what did I know? You get married, you chose a god damn china pattern.  And when you suggest to your husband, who came with the china, that maybe just using paper plates on Thanksgiving would steam line the whole process, it’s now his opportunity to point out that YOU wanted the expensive china, and WE are serving dinner on the god damn china.

So I think of Batman and my ill conceived ideas about what items are important in a marriage.  Faith, love, honesty, not necessarily good china.

  When one child married, he and his wife asked for no gifts.  At all.  They chose to start their lives together dishwasher safe.   

I’m pretty proud of them.

Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
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The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Technically Prepared – Instagram Poem

Instagram poem

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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