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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Power of A Good Critique for the Fiction Writer

The Power of A Good Critique for the Fiction Writer. A Good Critique Always InspiresA good critique never leaves you deflated. It always leaves you inspired.  

Receiving a critique with curiosity and an open mind and knowing how to critique others writing are two of the most enriching aspects of belonging to a fiction writing workshop. Having your work critiqued in a supportive atmosphere where there is a professional writing coach is a terrific learning experience in many way ways.

Whether you are participating in a writing workshop or working with a private writing coach, a good critique encourages the silencing of your Inner Critic, your willingness to take risks with your writing and releases your creative passion.

A Good Critique Inspired, Never Deflates
A good critique never judgmental or criticizing.
How will you develop as a writer if your confidence is undercut? And that can happen very subtly.

When I am working with a student, especially at the beginning of our journey together, I am aware of how you respond to my critiquing and am careful that your Inner Critic doesn't take what I say as criticism. Your Inner Critic is your worst critic.

Learning how to identify your Inner Critic and defang him or her is a very powerful part our work together. If your Inner Critic is in command when we are working together, either privately or in a workshop, you cannot hear the truth of what I am saying. All you can hear is: I failed. I'll never be a writer. What am I doing here?

The only way a writer can fail it to quit writing! Part of my passion as a writing coach is to keep that from happening to you!
I take as much care with your development as a writer as I do with the piece you are writing.

"Emily, my development and persistence as a writer is due in no small part to you and the classes you run. I doubt very highly that I would have been able to sustain this growth if it weren't for your powerful, yet always thoughtful critiques. Because of you, all of us in the class have learned and are still in the process of learning this magical way of listening and responding. It's what makes the writing great and the class wonderful." - Michelle Burton

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Friday, June 27, 2014

A New Summer Writing TeleWorkshop Starts June 25

Priming the Pump, A New Summer Writing TeleWorkshop, Starts June 25

New Start Date is June 25.
Two Spots Still Available.
What Exactly Do We Do on the TeleWorkshop Priming the Pump?
We Write In Class from Prompts that Are Photographs of People! The photos above are taken from past Priming the Pumps.
You have a choice of at least three different picture prompts each week. Then we let the pictures tell the story! the power of this is that images are the bridge to the unconscious and are actually more powerful and inspiring than words.
In class, we write for 20 minutes, then we read what we have written. We talk about what if's and where to go next with what you have written. We ask questions to open up your character.
Then we write for another 20 minutes, read again and further explore your story and characters.
You are welcome to work on the any character/story for more than one week, choose a new character each week and even work on a story that you have already started.
Writing together is a great jolt of inspiration! The end result of is a deeper connection to your writing and your imagination! 
Eight Weeks: $400 REGISTER

Wednesday Evenings, 7-9 pm, ET
Starting June 25. We meet for two weeks and then skip a week.               
Class size is limited to six. Two Spots Left.
Join from anywhere in the world — sessions are recorded.

Read What Past Participants Say About Priming the Pump!

"I found Priming the Pump just as I hoped. A portal to meeting characters not of my own invention... Your comments were helpful and clear. The writing of the others fascinated me and enlightened me." ~Ency Richardson

"I love to use the pictures in Priming the Pump as a jumping point to write about what I see — or don't see — as my eye roams over the photograph. Whether it is a vase, empty or full of flowers, a table clean or set with dishes, a child, man or woman, they all have a story. I just look beyond the subject to see what what lies beneath the surface..." Doris Russell

"Writing, sharing my work, writing for another 20 minutes and sharing again is really helpful. And the environment of the workshop is so non-threatening, that I am writing more freely, with more spunk and, most important, I've discovered I AM a writer!" ~Audrey Larkin
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Inner Critic Is Afraid of Your Creativity!

Creativity and the Inner Critic, Falling Down the Rabbit Hole
The Inner Critic is terrified of the creative unconscious because it is the home of feelings, emotions, images and it is chaotic and unexpected.

The Inner Critic likes order and loves the status quo, which is antithetical to the creative unconscious.

That's why if you "fall down the rabbit hole" the Inner Critic won't follow you!
Free of the Inner Critic, you have the possibility of experiencing real creative freedom and passionate stories awaits you. Only then can the true dance begin!
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Life Force of Creativity

From Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille

There is a vitality,
a life force,
a quickening that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one you in all time,
this expression is unique.

If you block it,
it will never exist through any medium and be lost.
The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is;
it is your business to keep it yours,
clearly and directly,
to keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your worth.
You have to keep open and
aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open.
No artist is pleased.
There is no satisfaction whatever at any time;
there is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction;
a blessed unrest that keeps us marking and
makes us more alive than the others.
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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Why and How Your Inner Critic Stops You from Writing?

How the Inner Critic Gains A Foothold
Here is a scenario about how the
Inner Critic gains a foothold in our lives. Imagine you are a little kid and you go to touch something that is hot and your mother screams, “Don’t do that!” Or, you are playing in the dirt, having a grand time, and your mother says in horror, “Oh my God! We are going to grandma’s house and you’re filthy dirty!”

The Inner Critic Wants to Keep You Safe, but at What Cost?

The Inner Critic takes that criticism and turns it into a dictum: don’t get dirty; don’t disobey; be a good girl; be a good boy; and be obedient. The Inner Critic doesn’t want you to make your mommy and daddy angry. The Inner Critic wants to keep you safe. It doesn’t care if it’s crushing your curiosity and creativity in the process. It just wants you to be “good” and “safe” and to do this the Inner Critic always takes a conservative, status quo stance.

“Why” the Inner Critic Comes Into Being?
This a quick view of the “why” the Inner Critic comes into being. The problem is the Inner Critic voice begins to take over and becomes the CEO of your life. The image I use is if your mind were a radio station, basically what happens is that every station you turn to is the nagging, blathering voice of the Inner Critic. It sometimes feels as if you can’t stop the Inner Critic's assault, always accusing you of doing the wrong thing, calling you stupid, dumb, asking why did you do that? Don’t you remember the time when –– twenty thousand million years ago –– when you did this and this terrible thing happened… and so it goes and goes.
How to Defang the Inner Critic
So what do we do? How do we defang the Inner Critic? The first thing to do is to acknowledge the existence of your Inner Critic as a controlling voice inside your head. And to know that the Inner Critic is not all of you by any means. It is a loud voice that lives in your mind but has no access to your heart. Second part of defanging the Inner Critic is to start listening to –– I mean really becoming aware of the insistent and invasive assault that is the voice of your Inner Critic. The jabber is constant.

A Defanged Inner Critic!!!
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Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Agony of the Untold Story for the Fiction Writer

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.  -Maya Angelou

Someone recently sent me this quote. Its truth brought tears to my eyes. The synchronicity of it's arrival was uncanny. Although I am a fiction writer and have written about ten novels, some published, some not, a few unfinished, others yet unborn, I have for the past ten years or so feared I would never give birth to another novel.

Why my fiction writing dried up, I don't know. It was a slow drying up, but one day it was gone. There were no more characters and stories inside me. It was astonishing, really. I had written all my life, since the time I was a little girl. There hadn't been any great long breaks. I wrote all through school, majored in writing in college. I married a man who loved my writing, believed in my career as a novelist. I wrote when my children were small and all through their growing up. I reveled in the freedom of the empty nest. My time was my own. I wrote more furiously. I expected I would write fiction for the rest of my life.
At first I worried desperately. Who was I without my fiction writing? What would I do? When there seemed there was nothing I could do to rekindle the flame, I grieved, I berated myself; I thought I was a failure. Wasn't I born to write? And finally, because I tired of the struggle, I grimly accepted the fact that my novel writing days were over. I was still writing, just not fiction. Sobeit. I'd had a great run with countless memorable characters and plots, successes and failures. I'd lived the life of a novelist and now it was time to put my creativity into other adventures.

My teaching, workshops and retreats became my passion. Yet, I have to admit, it was odd to be constantly working with, coaching fiction writers, creatively involved in other's characters and stories and not be writing fiction myself. As the years went by, I became aware of a subtle but aching emptiness that showed up now and again. Why, I wondered, am I not writing a novel? I never allowed myself to wonder long. It only increased the aching.
About two weeks ago, during a session of my teleworkshop Priming the Pump, I decided to write from one of my own prompts. Priming the Pump doesn't use word prompts. Instead, I pick photos and sometimes paintings that evoke feeling and drama for the prompts.

I have been holding Priming the Pump teleworkshops on and off for years. (If you would like to be informed of the next Priming the Pump teleworkshop, please sign up for the blog mailing list.) There always energetic and fun and the participants do some excellent writing. I, however, didn't write from the prompts myself. Since I knew why I chose them, I didn't feel drawn to write about them. Then I found the picture you see here.

The journey of rediscovering the Inner Fiction Writer, Quote Maya AngelouThe picture to the left immediately captured my imagination. When others in the workshop began to write (there are two time writing periods of twenty minutes each during the teleworkshop) I decided, hey, I love that painting, why not write? It wasn't actually a decision -- more of a reaction. And the story flowed. Out of nowhere. Out of the picture. Out of my imagination. Out of the fiction writer in me who suddenly woke up. Out of.... I don't know where, but the words flew. Characters appeared, the story took off. I felt the novelist in me breathing again. I read it to the class. The response was exhilarating. I was on to something.

I could barely sleep that night. Was this a fluke? Would I be able to write more? Sure, the characters showed up, but the story was slight. I was rusty, and blah, blah, blah. My doubts flowed as my writing had, but underneath the uncertainty, I knew I had found something intangible but real.  
I woke up the next morning with these words in my head. "My name is Viola Carpenter. I am 94 years old and of sound mind and body. I have lived most of my life in a small fishing village midway up the Maine Coast..." This was not the story I had written the night before. The character had another name and there was nothing of Maine in the story, but I knew this character; Viola was a live one. She was bold and she was ready to talk.
I jumped out of bed, put on the coffee and when it was ready, headed for the computer and Viola. I wrote for hours and wrote again the next day.... Viola has been talking to me ever since, and the story is evolving. She speaks to me when I am not writing. I fall asleep thinking about her and wake up thinking about her. I have no idea where the story is going. But I am writing. The fiction writer in me is alive and well.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to Use a Writing Prompt in Fiction Writing

How To Use a Writing Prompt in Fiction Writing
Some Tips Before You Begin
Any prompt is only a starting point. If your imagination takes you in a direction that has nothing to do with the prompts, go where your imagination takes you.
Do not listen to the voice inside your head that says, “Oh, no! I shouldn’t be writing about this!” or “I’m not doing this right!” There are no “shoulds” or “should nots” in this process. The only thing you can do wrong is to not write.
Always name your characters, even if the name never appears in the story. Why would a character tell you her story if you don’t care enough to learn her name?
Write dialogue. In thirty years of teaching writing, I have never worked with anyone who couldn’t write dialogue – only with people who thought they couldn’t!
Be a risk taker. Don’t think. Write from your passionate core. Risk and passion are the essence of the creative journey and the sweetest nectar for your Inner Writer. Don’t forget to have fun!
The Prompt
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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why Do We Make Writing So Hard?

Why Do We Make Writing So Hard?
We make writing a lot harder than it is meant to be. Don’t get me wrong—writing is not a piece of cake. It is hard work, but it’s good hard work, like digging in the earth to make a garden. The problem for many of us is that our minds have convinced us that sitting down to write a story much less a book is at best painful, at worst impossible.

I believed this for many years –– and despite that I managed to get five novels, two picture books and one book on writing published. I don’t believe in the pain theory of writing any more. Experience and age has convinced me of this: all our stories and novels are vibrant and complete somewhere in our creative unconscious. If we could side-step the Inner Critic who resides in the mind, we could sit down, put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and the story would reveal itself in its glorious completeness in much the same way as Mozart’s symphonies did for him. I have read that Mozart sat down and wrote his symphonies with very little revision, if any at all. In other words, he gave himself over fully to the creative journey and fell headlong into its passion.

The first time I read about Mozart composing without revision, I thought, sure, right. And if it’s true, well, we’re talking Mozart. For sure, that’s not me! Now, some twenty-odd years later, I no longer doubt that it is possible to sit down and write a book from beginning to end and have it come out whole. I would like to experience such a creative flow and know that what prevents me is me, my mind that says it’s impossible, “What, are you kidding? Writing is blood, sweat and tears. It’s revision after revision. It’s tearing your hair out. It’s giving up and picking up. It’s blah, blah, blah…”

Because that voice, the voice of my Inner Critic, still has sway over me, I have, like you, something of a difficult time opening to the creative flow. It’s getting easier. And who knows? One day I might just manage to quiet the naysayer in me and write a book whole from beginning to end. For now, I’m happy that writing is no longer such a mountain to climb… and I can imagine the possibility of creative nirvana!

Looking for help in defanging your Inner Critic? Explore My Coaching
When you are ready, call me at 914.962.4432.

Pass on this posting to your writing friends!
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Friday, March 14, 2014

Do You Want You Want Your Fiction Writing to Expand Like Crazy?

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole: Wonderland as Metaphor! How Far Down the Rabbit Hole Are You Willing to Go?
Wonderland as Metaphor for Writers and The Creative Journey

Falling down the Rabbit Hole into Wonderland is a perfect metaphor for the creative journey which can never take place in the “real” or conscious world. Writing, whether it be fiction, poetry or nonfiction, finds its origins in the dark, fertile chaos of the unconscious.
The Importance of Tweedledum and Tweedledee
If you don’t meet Cheshire cats and Mad Hatters, Tweedledees and Tweedledums, mad queens, dragons, flying monkeys and monsters, or your version of the above, then you have not fallen.

This is not to say you have to be writing fantasy or horror to open to your unconscious, but as you will see, the journey for the writer must hold metaphorically a good sprinkling of both.

Explore Emily's workbook, The Art of Fiction Writing or How to Fall Down the Rabbit Hole Without Really Trying....  Paperback and e-book available
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Friday, March 07, 2014

Are You Right Brain or Left Brain Dominant?

Are You Right Brain or Left Brain Dominant?
The Right Brain Leads the Dance of Creativity...
Creativity is a subtle dance between the rational and the intuitive, between the left and right parts of the brains. In terms of writing, we would say that technique comes from the left side of the brain and imagination from the right side. Both are needed People, by nature, are usually right brain or left dominant. Some are more in balance than others, and no matter which you are, you can learn how to build muscle into whichever side you are weaker.
Here is a look at some of the ways that the many people with whom I have worked over the past 30 years relate to their right and left brain tendencies. This is by no means a complete view of the spectrum but I believe it is fairly typical of fiction writers.

  • Right brain dominant people who actively express their creativity.
  • Right brain dominant people who are not expressing their creativity.
  • Left brain dominant people who yearn to express their creativity.

Which are you?

Right brain dominant people who are comfortable expressing creativity know that creativity is born in the chaos of the unconscious, where nothing is predetermined and everything is possible. They allow themselves to swim in chaos without fearing they will drown.
The early stages of any creative endeavor are confusing and challenging. Oftentimes as writers we want to throw up our hands in despair, but those who trust the creative process knows that if we hang in and keeping on doing our job, which is write without needing to control what happens, characters and plot will take form - usually forms which we could not have foreseen! 

"The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion,
some place, in the air. All I must do is find it…." Jules Renard 

Right brain dominant people who are not comfortable expressing creativity trust neither the right nor the left side of the brain. They swim aimlessly in the chaos and often give up and feel unsuccessful, unworthy and even stupid because nothing they do gets finished. They are likely to believe the stories that have pigeon-holed them as ditzy, disorganized and sometimes useless. These people have had little support for their right brain strengths, and even when their creativity is praised, the praise falls on deaf ears. They have lost belief in themselves and their self worth. This is a tragic situation for the person who is born right brain dominant. Becoming a warrior for your creativity is a big part of the answer. Finding someone who can help you challenge your inner critic is another.

Left brain dominant people who yearn to express  their creativity must learn to swim in the chaos of the right side of the brain. This is very challenging because left brain dominant people are excellent at processing information, drawing conclusions and seeing a project to completion. Such linear thinking is antithetical to the first part of the creative process where anything is possible and mystery is the guiding light. This is why Einstein could say: “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

What is the left brain dominant person to do then? Ah, there are many ways to skin that cat, but a great metaphor is that of falling down the rabbit hole.  

Both right and left brain dominant people need help falling down the rabbit hole. It's a scary place....until you've found a home there.

Need help in finding your Wonderland. Call Emily at 914.962.4432 and see if her coaching can take you there!
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