How Did You Die?

For the Conscious Writer

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What you’re willing to die for, should be the same as what you’re willing to live for. Death is inevitable. Not in a depressing way but we all know it’s coming. What’s unknown, though? Your greatness? The impact your writing will have? How much you will change with your mere existence? Those are all unknowns and they always will be. One of my favorite songs from Eminem’s Music to Be Murdered By -Side B album is his song titled Higher. Here’s a line

All I know is every time I think I hit my ceiling
I go higher than I’ve ever fuckin’ been

That’s something worth thinking about. For a long time, I knew my daughter was the only thing in this life worth dying for. I said that religiously. But I was killing myself. I had destructive thoughts. While I did enjoy fitness, I still wasn’t taking in enough calories so it was taking a toll on my mental health. My digestion went downhill. My emotions went downhill which had an impact on my relationship and ability to make proper decisions for the future of my daughter.

Then it hit one day. Okay, you’d die for your baby and your mom but what are you willing to stay alive for? Life is fuckin hard as shit. So hard in fact that living in a healthy way is the best most precious gift I could ever give to myself and my daughter.

That shift in mindset changed my entire perspective on why I’m alive and how I should be thinking about my purpose, my motivations, my disciplines, and my relationships.

So yes, how did you die, but it also means (and more importantly) How did you live?

How Did You Die?

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?

Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what’s that!
Come up with a smiling face.
It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there-that’s disgrace.

The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts;
It’s how did you fight-and why?

And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.

Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he’s slow or spry,
It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,
But only how did you die?

Edmund Vance Cooke

Publication: For the Conscious Writer

The highlights are lines Medium members thought were pretty awesome.

That Kind of Night

The blankets, slept in. The air thick with smoke from the magical stuff that turns your mind inward, too inward if you let it. I wouldn’t know, I’m more of a bore. The stale sweat rubs me in every wrong way while I tell myself I’m there for some divine reason. A few drops of blood drip from the crown of his head. Flashes of sex. Flashes of nude bones and rolling hills course through me like biblical visions from above. I don’t dare ask. And here he comes with all the magic and an entire universe behind his eyes that a few of us are lucky enough to see. I respect you, is what I wish to say. I like you- like you, is what I wish to say, but instead I talk about Chipotle. I want him and he wants me but I want more. The stink of stale sex and that feeling of whether he’ll be there tomorrow plagues me enough without it. “Not tonight, okay?” And that was ok. And it was ok. Like it should be. But it’s not the sex that connect us. The sadness that sits inside him reaches the depths of hell and the arms he wraps me in feel like the sun and the moon. He is an entire universe I’ll only ever leave in body because my mind wanders towards him in the most sacred ways. So sacred, it doesn’t feel right.

Ode To David

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I sacrifice the ways of man

and rid the pride

of sacrifice

And I will crawl into the bowels

And rise to the sky

into your hands

and I will lift my voice

in delight in whatever you made

me to be

help me to accept what you have vowed

A life, oh Lord, it is mine

A life, oh Lord, it is mine

not rid of strife

but abundance

I’m alive, a wild sun,

a silent moon

slow to utter vows

I sacrifice the ways of man

and rid the pride

of sacrifice

And I will crawl into the bowels

And rise to the sky

into your hands

and I will lift my voice

-Saschia Johnson

Ecclesiastes

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I wanted to share a poem of mine that was published on Genius in a Bottle a publication on Medium that I really admire.

I’ve been going through a literary theory course through open courseware. (You can find it here) And I’ve learned so much and in such an in depth way. The last few articles I’ve read that were required for the lectures gave me some clarity on how I can incorporate the strong arms in my life and use them to propel my art rather than allow it to stifle me in any way. Please click the link the link to enjoy the full poem and to support our art.

Ecclesiastes

Am I but once
Am I left for dead
strapped head to a bed
chasing after the wind’s howls?
strapped to a life unplanned
but a life always wanted
it’s a yellow wood-left goes right
right goes left
As above so below so they say
I zippered, then tore, now I’m here

Now I’m……

Read More Here

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Blocked? There’s a Way Out

Encouragement For the Conscious Writer

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Writer’s block’ is an emotional or logical incoherence in a future work slowly working its way through our unconscious. — Alain de Botton

So you’ve hit it, the emotional block. It grows. That block grows and grows until you’ve spent the day avoiding the one thing you love doing. It then turns into doubt and fear and all sorts of negative thoughts. So you shift your focus some more. It can turn into a vicious cycle gnashing at the little bit of confidence you have left.

I’m here to shed some light.

What is a writer’s block? More importantly what is a writer’s block for conscious writers?

Well, let’s start by discussing the fact that you are an amazing writer and you having a block does not make you any less or any more of a writer. It makes you a healthy functioning human being. If you’ve written to the point of a writer’s block, you are doing a phenomenal job. You have gotten past the hardest part and that’s being consistent enough to reach a block. On top of that, you are reading a post about how to unblock that block, which means, you are actively seeking to fix the problem instead of just walking away when it got hard. This is progress. This is maturity. Seriously. You are doing a great job. Do not let negative thoughts make you think for one second that you are not cut out for this, because let me tell you, if there’s anything you’re good at, it’s this.

So what is writer’s block?

It isn’t just a part of the story you can’t figure out. It is a psychological barrier that is holding you back. Before you can work on the block you’ve get to get yourself back into that creative space. Some things that help me step back into my creative space are to:

walk
talk it out
put away the story
edit parts I’m not stuck on
do something else creative
focus on something else I’m interested in like research, empowering friends, or whatever else will take my mind off of it.
write an unrelated poem or short story

These things really loosen up my brain space from tension. Once you get relaxed you can return to the writing space.

When you get back to that space it doesn’t mean the block is gone. It means you’re ready to figure out why it’s there so you can continue. Is the block emotional? Is something in this scene or idea triggering you? It seems at surface value that you’re fresh out of ideas but this isn’t true because you are an idea machine. You are made of amazing ideas sparked by infinite creativity.

How to get to the block.

Look at what you’re adding to your story. Is it something directly related to your life? Is there something you feel limited from in your life. If it is, how can you change your perception to use what’s limiting you in a positive way?

Another way I’ve learned to look at a block is what’s going on outside of my writing. Am I exhausted? Have I been pushing yourself too hard? Am I getting too comfortable or eating too much junk. Now, don’t let your head spin from all these questions. These are good questions to ask regularly whether you have a writers block or not.

When I first started writing, I’d walk away and say I can’t write or I don’t know what to write. I’d have all sorts of writers block excuses but the truth was I was frustrated about something else. The longer I tried to ignore it, the longer I couldn’t write. So when I was ready to face the reason why I couldn’t write, things would begin to fall back into place.

Even if you’re not going through the dreaded writer’s block, these questions will help you learn who you are.

Keep Writing. You got this.

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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

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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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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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