The Writers Den

Jayne.PressOct 22 · 3 min read

For the Conscious Writer

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Now when you first hear the writers den, you might think of Roald Dahl’s writing hut (which can be found here). A place where a writer goes to find solace so they can write novels, think, daydream, and nap. This is not the writers den I’m referring to. I’m referring to the writer’s den where writers are thrown to the lions. This is where their only option is to have faith.

There is a biblical story about a man of God named Daniel. I respect this story because so many times we roll over on our true beliefs or dreams or endeavors to bow to someone who doesn’t understand our vision. In this story, Daniel was demanded to stop with his religious practices of praying to God. Instead of having religious freedom, he was ordered to pray only to the king. Daniel, knowing his faith is where it needed to be, refused to obey this law, and continued to pray to his God. So, they totally saw Daniel pray and snitched on him to the King who was friends with Daniel.

So now, the king has to be a man of his word because he’s the king and it’s a written decree. When they bring Daniel to the king, he doesn’t waiver in his own belief. He stands tall for his beliefs and allows himself to be thrown into a lion’s den per order of the decree.

The king is friends with Daniel so the next morning, he runs with angst and worry to the lion’s den and finds that God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions.

The point here isn’t to question whether this story is true or if the lions were well fed before he was thrown in there. The point is that Daniel stood his ground in a time of great trial.

So, as writers, who are consciously writing (which means we are writing for more than just a story, we’re writing to grow) there are going to come times of great trial when it comes to your writing. People are going to speak ill of your belief and faith in writing. People are going to have great and logical reasons for you to stop writing, but you are going to be resilient. Like Daniel worked on and invested in his relationship with God, you have work on and invested in your relationship with your writing. Not only will you survive but you will have an even stronger ability to trust your work as an artist and as a conscious writer.

When someone mentions the writers den, I’d like you to think of it as a strong commitment to your craft. Not a place of solace away from the world, but a place in the world where you are doing exactly what you are called to do.

The writer must learn to accept that and trust that they are where they are for some reason. – Scott Myers from “Trust the Process”

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Sources

The bible https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-stories/daniel-in-the-lion-s-den.html

Can literature Act as a Preparation for Inexperience?

Literature Theory

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Spoiler Alert Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

I vividly remember when I finished reading Charlotte’s Web in fourth grade. I cried when Charlotte died. Her loss left me in a strange place where I was contemplating death for days. I also remember the day my grandmother died. These two experiences are not the same. The loss of Charlotte did not prepare me for the loss of my grandmother. There is no book that can prepare you for some life experiences.

Literature supports in experiences we are going through or have gone through. When I thought of death without the real life experience of losing someone, the understanding felt distant. It was something foreign to me that I wanted to grasp without gaining it through my own experience. I was left with a world full of uncertainty and hugged my mom a little tighter after reading it.

Trying to prepare someone for a new experience is like describing what an orange tastes like to someone who’s never tasted an orange. We can explain how to eat it and that the peel isn’t the good part. We can even tell them the juicy fruity part is on the inside, but we can’t tell them if they will enjoy it or how much they will enjoy it. They may even find a different way to eat it than we taught them. That’s how I feel about literature. It can explain what to do and give some insight on how to do it, but an individual can not be prepared for how they will feel in new experiences using literature.

I do believe seeing how characters react to an experience can suggest the right thing to do and it may even give some insight on how someone else is feeling. I don’t think literature can prepare us for how we will feel going through our own life experiences. I do feel it can help readers learn to use understanding and empathy toward someone else’s experience by seeing the world from another characters point of view.

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A Writing Woman’s Space

Inspired Virginia Woolf’s “A room of her own.”

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Photographer: James Futrell of Strictly Digital Photography Creative Director: Saschia Johnson Model: Tessa Dipalina

What genius and integrity it is for female writers today to write with all the criticism they receive, not just from men but also from other women. Not just about writing but for the way they choose to live.

We as women are expected to follow suit in terms of patriarchy. What does this mean? Well, when you first think of this, you think of a male-run household and a stay at home mom who knits and raises children. And yes, this is still very much an idea we are fighting against. But today our fight has evolved. Women are now leading their households on top of what they were already doing. Even with our forward movement, women still underhandedly and blatantly bash other women for staying home to raise children instead of taking advantage of a world where women can work. Stay at home moms bash working women for not being there for their kids in a world where suicide in children is far higher than it’s ever been. I’m going with the cliché here and saying raising children is hard. It doesn’t matter what path you choose in life. How is it that patriarchy has a hand in this? According to Webster’s dictionary, patriarchy in a broad sense is control by men of a disproportionately large share of power. Men have been in power for so long now that women are gaining power, they are living in a way to prove that they are as capable as men, rather than living and working in their own natural state. I say natural state as in an acceptance of what they want to do, not to overpower but because this is precisely what they want to do. This working to prove comes with its own sense of superiority toward other women. Which in turn, makes stay-at-home moms feel as if they must prove to both men and working women, they are in fact pulling their way.

Ok, so that’s for moms who write. Now let’s brush over the idea of writing women who do not have children. There’s this strange and quiet awkwardness among women when you don’t have children. It’s like women feel as if they are less because they don’t have children. To be honest, I’ve never seen or heard of a woman bashing another woman for not having children, but there’s this sense of failure that looms when children aren’t created by a certain age.

That is just two of the biggest adversities’ women face within our community of women. There’s significantly more but let’s just stick with these. So, we see that among women we have vastly different ideas on what womanhood looks like. As writers, it’s our job to face adversity. It’s our job to approach the elephant in the room and then talk about it. So, let’s talk about it.

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According to Virginia Woolf, the women writers of the past wrote even without a room of their own. Jane Austin without a room of her own wrote an entire novel in secret. She hid her passion to write from even her servants. Do I think we are still fighting for the space to write in peace? Absolutely. Why? Why would we be fighting this in a world where women are allowed the space to write and pursue their passions? Why would a female writer keep her passions hidden under her successful job or her ability to keep a clean house and have well-dressed children walking around? Because as a woman, with the ability to sit undisturbed at the kitchen table, we are still shamed for the lifestyles we choose regardless of the rights we are given.

I’ve felt it. I’ve heard over and over about how my writing isn’t a real job and that I have nothing going for me. Or how as a novelist, I’m not a real writer. I’ve been shamed for the way I cook or don’t cook. I’ve been shamed for the way I tend or don’t tend to my husband. Pish, I’ve been shamed for going away for two weeks to focus on my writing. This is why we hide it. This is why women hide their passions and write in the closet.

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Today, it is still a relevant metaphor when Virginia Woolf suggests that women need a room of their own. We need the space and support from fellow women. Not only from men. Not only from our parents but from other women. I’d like to end with a quote from Virginia Woolf.

What genius, what integrity it must have required in face of all the criticism, in the midst of that purely patriarchal society, to hold fast to the thing as they saw it without shrinking.” -Virginia Woolf

Sources

Woolf, Virginia. “Austen-Brontë-Eliot” In The Critical Tradition, pp. 602–10

Photography Credit: James Futrell from Strictly Digital Photography

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Overcompensating From Fear of Loss

For the Conscious Writer

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Impending loss has an aura of grief around it. It stalks the ones closest to it and it has not one ounce of sympathy for our very fragile emotions. -Saschia Johnson

When writing a character who feels like they are losing the one they love, they should overcompensate. They might think that going above and beyond will help them keep what they love. This isn’t just in romantic relationships. This is parenting, friendship, and loss, maybe even a job someone is passionate about.

We hang tight to the things we love, it’s natural for us. Some think it’s even romantic. Whatever it is, if your character is losing the one they love, it’d feel right and believable to have them overcompensating in some way.

All you need is one safe anchor to keep you grounded when the rest of your life spins out of control. -KATIE KACVINSKY

In what ways can our characters overcompensate as human beings?

They can become overly controlling.

When we feel like we are losing control of the things we love, we tend to try and control everything around us. It makes this illusion of having more control over the loss.

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. –MEGAN DEVINE

They can become overly generous

They give. They bake and clean. They do other people’s work with a smile and an oppressed heart. They justify the oppression with the idea that this is better than losing the person or the job. They’d give the shirt off their back if that meant they’d be together for just a tad longer.

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They don’t hold their love accountable

In fear of losing what they love, they allow things to slide. Over time this snowballs. They mention here and there that something isn’t right or that things need to change but there is no action behind it. Their boundaries become gray. Then they become doormats.

They can become overly critical and judgy

This is the opposite of the last one. Instead of being walked over, they become overly rigid. They don’t allow anyone else to replace their love. They don’t allow themselves to feel weak about losing their love which in turn makes them critical about others who show weakness. They turn their noses up in disgust at the mere suggestion that they may be weak to the situation.

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They flee

Instead of facing a smooth ending. Instead of allowing things to end civilly, they run away from having to face an ending at all.

These behaviors can happen to any person. Even mature individuals who are dealing with losing what they love are changed by that loss. I say that because it would be a good idea to use loss in your story as a way to show your character’s growth from not being themselves for a time.

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you’ll learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.

-ELISABETH KUBLER-ROSS

source

A little bit about For the Conscious Writer

There’s different types of writers out there. I prefer to speak to the writers on an inward journey. I prefer to speak to writers who write to become better human beings and who write to survive this insanely beautiful and chaotic world.

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Unchecked Passion and Your Characters

“it wasn’t what I was resentful about that I needed to let go of but what I was passionate about.”

For the Conscious Writer

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“There is no passion to be found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela

Passionate characters can drive the story forward. Passion can drive us as writers forward and make us do things we never thought possible. In my last post Resentment and Passion, I explained that in order to help me let go of resentment, I had to change my perspective. (You can read more about it here.) What I figured out from changing my perspective is that it wasn’t what I was resentful about that I needed to let go of but what I was passionate about.

So, let’s talk about passion.

I said in that post I was passionate about mothering my children. It’s something I hold dear to my heart. The passion I have for mothering comes with intentionally investing in the relationship I have with my children. It comes with creating moments for them to engage in self-discipline and self-discovery. It comes with snuggles, tears, hugs, frustration and so much more.

So, when writing a passionate character these are the actions and emotions you want your character to engage in. But we can’t stop there. This is just a character with their passions in check.

A character with unchecked passion ultimately turns into a villain. One of my most favorite characters with unchecked passion is King Pin from the Marvel comic books. Creating a great character with unbridled passion should start with a checked passion that grows out of control. I think we can relate to those characters better. Which helps us to better understand the bad in this world.

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Unbridled passion is often brushed off and claimed as just mindless evil but that’s just not enough for us conscious writers. We need to understand. The answer to some of the most misunderstood villains is passion.

“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” -Benjamin Franklin

How can we keep a character’s passion in check?

Take who or what they’re passionate about away, you might think.

Ah, but this is where you must know your character. Is your character mature enough to grow from that loss or will removing that passion will bring them into villainy?

The best way to round your character with a passion in check is to mature the character in other areas of their life. Give them a sense of something outside of their passion.

When a character loses something, they were passionate about and doesn’t have the maturity in other areas of their life, they should plummet into an existential crisis because they don’t have any other thing driving them forward. (Besides what you throw at them.)

As conscious writers, we should take note of that. If we want to be well-rounded writers, we must keep our passions in check. We should rule our passions, not let our passions rule us.

Some ways we, as real living humans, can keep our passions in check.

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Have hobbies outside of what we’re passionate about

Have healthy relationships with peers and family

Work to live don’t live to work or Write to live don’t live to write

Self-love

Understand that without your gifts and talents you are enough

Create things perfect, imperfect, doesn’t matter just create things

Invest in your physical health

Focus on growth and forward movement

Having passion is a good thing and a great tool. I think we should all invest in our passions. It might rule from time to time, but like Ben Franklin said, allow reason to reel you back in.

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Sources

https://www.inc.com/dave-kerpen/15-quotes-on-passion-to-inspire-a-better-life.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingpin_%28character%29

Just Show Up

For the Conscious Writer

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How do they do it? Writers, actors, painters? How do they create so many works of art? They show up. There are days when they are inside out and upside down but they show up. Not 100 percent bright eyed and bushy tailed. Not with motivation.

They show up for their dreams, they show with their discipline, and they show up keeping that commitment they made with themselves. That’s how they do it.

I’m sure quitting crosses their minds from time to time. I’m sure some of them even walk away for a moment and in that very moment maybe they do quit but the truth is, they don’t. Successful writers come back to the page and finish what they started.

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There’s always a million other things to do.

There’s always time for a nap or cleaning or even an extra hour at the gym. If there is anything I’ve learned it’s that there is never enough time to write. It’s not just the clock, it’s the amount of energy, the amount of focus and mental stamina. It’s ok to spend time taking care of your priorities but when it’s time to write, it’s important to show up.

There’s not a huge expectation here. It’s just show up and write everyday. You don’t have to want to. You just have to do it. One more scene. One more detail about your character, one more juicy tidbit about your world. There’s no need to be enthusiastic or energetic. The page could care less about your mood or your energy. The characters just need you to be there, giving them a reason to come to life.

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

— Richard Bach

Read More For the Conscious Writer here

Rest Rest Rest

For the Conscious Writer

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The work is always going to be there, you will not. It’s so easy in today’s world to get caught up in the over ambitious lifestyle. Work work work till you drop. I think discipline and hard work are both important things but not to the point that they become oppressive. Writing should add to your growth. It can bring you tears. It can bring you frustration especially when you’re dealing with internal conflict, but it shouldn’t oppress you.

In this world oppression is normal and being a slave to our thoughts and feelings is normal. As conscious writers, we are gifted the luxury of standing up for ourselves and confronting our true thoughts and feelings rather than ignoring them.

There are forms of oppression and domination which become invisible — the new normal. -Michel Foucault

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When writing becomes the bad guy, it’s time to step back and change your mindset. Remember why you write. Find another way to write. Find another way to tackle the problem. Just don’t let the act of conscious writing become your villain.

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.
That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.
― 
Octavia E. Butler

Writing can feel daunting. I have been feeling the weight of editing this past week. There were some tears and frustration. I wasn’t ready to quit, but I was beginning to doubt myself as a writer. There’s no room for doubt in writing. I reminded myself, I am where I am from hard work and determination. I had that mindset before I started writing, and I’ll have it till I die because it’s in my blood. Knowing this gave me no other option than to look for another way to tackle the problem. But that meant, I had to wait it out. I had to wait and trust my inner writer and let me tell you, that wasn’t easy. For me, waiting at a red light is fine. I don’t even mind bad traffic as long as I’ll still be on time, but waiting on my inner writer while I have bills to pay, that is tough stuff. I still tackled the novel. I still edited and reread the story to stay connected. Then I walked around the house, talked to myself, and finally realized half of my work had to be deleted. Which is good. Now I have solid ground to build from.

So, what does all this mean? You have to trust that your story will find a place in this world. Allow these moments of waiting to be moments of rest. Drink your go-to beverage and enjoy the journey. This writing job is the place where you should not be turned into a robot. Writing is a place where you let it all hang out in its own natural and restful glory.

Stay strong writers. We’re going to finish these stories.

Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
― 
Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

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For the Conscious Writer

A Collection of Thoughts for Writers on a Journey

This will be a collection of lessons I’ve learned on the way. They were initially written for my past self but I need to hear them now too. The point of these writings are for encouragement and guidance to those who write for the purpose of internal growth and understanding with the intention of unconditional love.

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As Conscious writers we intentionally feel everything in a world where feelings are considered inappropriate. This act isn’t sunshine and cupcakes, but as conscious writers we know that taking the time to feel is better than the numbness that comes from flight. We dig. We listen. We rise.

We know that we may seem different and soft in a world where normal and tough is what’s expected. We aren’t your typical writer, and yet in so many ways we are just the same. There’s a place for us on this journey where our differences are exactly what we need to finish our story. We grow to accept that we won’t always be accepted.

Acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness.

Eckhart Tolle

We are shunned from certain circles when we question authority. It’s not always the authority figure that shuns us. Often times, the authority figure is excited to finally have someone aware enough to engage. It’s usually others in the group that shun the question asker, as if questioning behavior is uncouth. We question anyways, with or without fear because we need those answers to write the truth in our stories. We peek our nose where it doesn’t belong and question the things everyone else is too busy or too ashamed to question. We are the curious cats stubborn against conformity.

The worst curse to befall anyone is stagnation, a banal existence, the quiet desperation that comes out of a need for conformity.
— 
Deepak Chopra

We are taught to keep our heads down and be like everybody else, but that’s where conscious writers are different. We write to capture all of ourselves. All the intricacies and inner workings. We will watch this story unfold with our head up and our eyes wide open until the very end.

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We are on a journey and our writing is proof we’re still alive. In poetic terms, each page is an exhale.

Read more from For The Conscious Writer here

Hanging On?

It’s time to let go.

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“Attachment constrains our vision so that we are not able to see things from a wider perspective.” Dalai Lama

As a conscious writer, it’s important to be able to let a story go. It starts during creation, even though you shouldn’t think too much about what to get rid of while in the creation process. Sometimes we really want something in a story that doesn’t fit no matter how much we want it there. Then, there’s editing that’s basically deleting everything you just wrote or a good portion of it anyways. And then, there’s editing from other’s perspectives. And last but not least the final product is bringing it out of hiding and letting it go free into the world.

“You only lose what you cling to.” Buddha

This is why learning to let go is important. If you hang on to things that are no longer useful for your story, it’s going to detract from the meaning and power behind your words, behind your life’s work. Same with hanging on to anything else. If you want your work to be powerful, you’re going to have to let things go.

The best way to let go while feeling everything is learning to have healthy attachments. A good reminder is that none of this is truly our own. Not the people in our lives and not our art. They don’t belong to us. They are meant for their own purposes and their own lives. That is the best start to developing healthy attachments. (Another way of saying it is non attachment.)

“It is a sign of great character and strength to be able to lose your attachment to anyone or anything that isn’t good for.” Anonymous

Knowing that you need to let go is one thing but actually letting go is an entirely different thing. In my experience, the one thing that has helped me let go is learning to trust my inner writer. Trusting your inner writer can take time and practice. So we talked about letting go, now, let’s talk about how and why you should start learning to trust your inner writer.

Finish reading here

Pace Yourself

For the Conscious Writer

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I must admit, pacing myself is my weakness. I like face paced. I like writing the way I think so often times my writing is jagged. I skip over important details and jump right in. Pacing your story and yourself in real life is important. It’s not all about balance like they say, it’s about knowing when to speed up and when to slow down.

Those who sprint might travel quicker, but we’ll all end up in the same place at the end.
― 
Fennel Hudson, A Writer’s Year — Fennel’s Journal — №3

Knowing where your story is going helps pace your writing. I always have to remember my characters are not rushing to a finish line, they are living. They need to know where they are, what they’re thinking, what time it is, and who they’re currently not in love with. The reader doesn’t need to know these things and certainly not all at once like an info dump. These are the things that go in a journal or jotted down in the margin.

Keeping note of all your ideas also helps to stay focused on details so that you can find different ways to play with the pace. I use google docs and I also handwrite my notes to try and stay on track. (It’s too easy to get off track. Our brains are unreliable so write it down).

And as a writer, one of the things that I’ve always been interested in doing is actually invading your comfort space. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Get under your skin, and make you react. Stephen King
Read more at 
https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/stephen-king-quotes_2

I tend to rush through intense scenes. I just want to get it over with so the anxiety I’m feeling can go away. It’s hard for me to enjoy writing intense situations, so I don’t write them or even deal with them if I don’t have to in real life. I avoid them whenever I can. I know I haven’t always been like this, but I’m not sure when I changed. Guess I should get my journal out.

My plan is to hack away at the story in layers and small doses. I’m taking the story apart scene by scene and really diving in.

Wish me luck.

As you can see, I’m still learning this; I’ll have to come back with an updated post on pacing myself and how I solved that problem. How do you pace yourself?

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