Stop Negative Thoughts and Be Creative!

How think more creatively

Most of us would like to think more creatively. I would. As human beings, we dream every night and play out all kinds of creative scenes. Writing is my thing, so I want my mind to be filled with new thoughts. I love it when new characters, scenes or plot ideas pop into my head, but I wish they would appear more often. With such an over-active mind, how do I do that?

In one of my first meditation classes at Wanderlust Yoga Festival, I learned that up to 90% of our thoughts are old and repetitive.

Wow. I consider myself a creative thinker, so I was horrified that much of my time is wasted.

The instructor explained there are many kinds of old thoughts. The most common are negative. We play out scenes where we have felt loss or have been wounded long ago. They’re on a loop. We replay them over and over again. There is nothing we can do about these scenes. They happened. They’re in our past. Most of the time these loops make us feel bad, guilty, or fill us with regret. Not only do we hold them in our minds, we hold them in our muscles, our gut, our heart, our bones. It’s not healthy.

We think about the people in our lives who misunderstand us.

They live in our present. We regurgitate our latest conversations. They may be one of our acquaintances, a co-worker, or a neighbor. Their negative impact can hold us back in some way when their unkind words make us doubt ourselves. We don’t need more doubt. We have enough as it is. Everyone is on a path, but these people seem to trip us up. These “viral” loops in our brain make us feel inadequate. For some strange reason, we continue to regurgitate them anyway. We add them to our already heavy load. We are sensitive human beings.

On top of that, we have worries and fear.

They live in our future. They are the worst. We make plans and try to control what happens. A certain amount of planning is important, but what if the expectations become huge? It can paralyze us. I have held off sending emails that could further my career in writing because of the fear of a typo, an awkward sentence or a rejection. Instead, I hesitated and had to build up my confidence before pressing send.

There is also the fear of choosing the right path. What if we made a wrong turn somewhere? We may have faltered, twisted and turned around, or may have been seduced by sparkly things along the way. How do we know?

resolutions illustrationAll of these thoughts weigh us down. They take up the majority of our time. In order to free up space for creativity, we shouldn’t think about something that happened last month or ten years ago. The negative people in your life? They aren’t worth your time either. Obsessing about the future doesn’t help since it’s more out of our control than we think and it never turns out exactly how we plan, anyway. So make your plan and move along.

Sound easy? It is.

I say this because I stumbled upon part of this technique before the yoga adventure.

When I received a request for my full manuscript, I was so excited! Then I panicked. Over the previous two weeks, a few new ideas had popped into my head. There were a couple inconsistencies that needed to be fixed. Since they had bubbled up at weird times during the day, I hadn’t written them down. I couldn’t remember what they were. I was leaving town! I had a doctor’s appointment at 2:00! It was noon! I had two hours!

What would I do?

My stomach knotted while all kinds of negative thoughts popped into my head. I didn’t have time to sit and read through 370 pages, but I wanted to send it as soon as possible. Timing is everything.

I stared at my laptop on the kitchen counter and then I looked down at the rug. It was worth a try. After getting comfortable on the floor, I took a deep breath and tried to clear my frantic mind. I concentrated on my breath (this may sound weird), and stared at the insides of my eyelids. I took several deep breaths and thought about my main character. Then I drifted over (and I mean barely thought about), a few plot points and BAM! Those five corrections popped into my head.

Instead of thinking, I freed my mind and listened.

This happened because I calmed myself and stepped away from the source of stress. Breathing does that. In two three, out two three. Over and over until the heart rate slows and our brains fill with oxygen.

In the case above, I had thought about these corrections before, but only momentarily. I had been in that creative space when they were formed, so I had to get back into that level of calm and relaxed thinking in order to bring them back.

If you’re facing a brain block, sometimes it gets worse if you try to force it. That’s when we are using the wrong part of the brain. I don’t believe good books get written with the cerebral cortex. It’s too logical. Creative thinking has to come from that dreamlike state where the book flows like a movie. I write what I see in my mind’s eye.

I set aside time to write creatively and try to hit between 1000-2000 words. If I’m having a problem settling down, I do what I did when I panicked. I slow my breathing. I think about my last scene and the characters. I try to come up with the most interesting event that could happen, the worst-case scenario, or a way to reveal something new. Then I start writing.

At the festival, I learned another way to become more creative. By letting go of all those negative, unwanted, or unneeded thoughts, the brain can flow to new ideas . The process of letting go makes room for them.

Imagine them as black smoke deep inside your bones, your muscles, your gut. Breathe them out. Get rid of them. You don’t have the time for old negativity.

It’s funny, how it feels weird to let them go. It’s as if we’ve clung to them for protection, but they don’t protect us. They hurt us. They keep our wounds open, so they don’t heal.

The first three days of the festival, all of my old wounds broke wide open. It was scary, at first to be so vulnerable. I had to think about them, so I could finally release them.

Negative memories and thoughts hold us back. They undermine our confidence. We’ve learned our lessons. We don’t need reminders of misunderstandings or mistakes. They need to go back to where they belong. In our past.

Just the fact that 90% of our thoughts are old, changed my thinking.

When something bad happens, I let myself have time to think about it. Then I let it go. It’s not worth my time.

resolution illustrationI thought I had to go out and fix everything by doing, but I was wrong. I needed to accept who I am and chill. Everything will ebb and flow the way it’s supposed to if we trust we are on the right path and keep working hard toward our goals. We need to quiet our minds, so we can listen to our sub-conscious thoughts, stop forcing everything to solve problems, and be.

We are human beings after all.

Are you able to let go of negative thinking? How does the creative process flow for you?

Click for more adventure on my Wild Ride.

Another inspiring post for you!

A Shia LaBeouf Hitchhiking Update #TAKEMEANYWHERE

Good morning Wild Riders and Happy Summer to you!Shia LaBeouf and Susie Lindau at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

Remember when I met Shia LaBeouf in May? Well he, Nastja Ronkko, and Luke Turner have been hitchhiking since May 23rd. Every day, they have posted their new coordinates at noon on Twitter and have taken a ride from whomever picks them up first. GPS placed them north of Seattle, Washington yesterday. Today at noon, they were further north near Maple Ridge, British Columbia. My guess is they will head to Los Angeles, but who knows? Maybe they’ll complete their weird loop by hitching a ride back to Boulder.

#takemeanywhere hitchhiking map LaBeouf, Turner, Ronkko

These are their last few days of hitchhiking. My husband, Danny, and I are road-tripping on Sunday and will just miss them. Dang!

I found the coolest video of Scott Daly and a friend who set out from Utah to track the team down. Being super fans, it soon became a cat and mouse adventure. If you’re a writer, this video includes every step in the making of a great story. It is very suspenseful and worth a view.

Take a look:

Would you have gone this far? Can you see how Daly’s adventure plays out like a great short story?

I wonder what LaBeouf, Ronkko and Turner will do with their #TAKEMEANYWHERE hitchhiking adventure. Will they do something with the GPS coordinates? Will they document their journey in a video or photos? Or is the journey the art installation? Stay tuned. When I find out, I’ll let you know.

Everyone is a super fan of some celebrity. How far would you go to spend a day with your favorite star?

 

Watch for all kinds of Wild Rider adventures this summer. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram too.

 

What Dreams Teach Writers

Dreams teach us lots of things about ourselves, our daily lives, and what stresses us out. As a writer, I’ve learned one more crucial thing.

“Sweet dreams,” our mothers said while tucking us into bed.

Pshh! When was the last time you had a sweet dream? Do your dreams come true in your dreams? Are you accepting a Hugo or Edgar award for exceptional writing? If you do, I would love to live in your subconscious.

My dreams are nothing like that.

I look forward to going to sleep. It can be such a relief after a hectic day, but my dreams seldom are a place where I rest. I never, ever get what I want.

DreamscapeDream #1.

I am lost and hungry as I thrash my way through the jungle at night. Dirt clings to my body, slick with sweat. I’m tired and want to sit down to rest, but am desperate to find civilization. A warm light flickers through the dense understory. It’s a campfire. Relieved, I run toward the clearing.

A haggard man turns a spit. Other dirty campers lift their gaze as I approach them.

“What kind of meat is that?” I ask.

He looks up at me and says, “Human.”

Dream #2.

Tuesday night, I dreamed of a lyrical stone village seen through a dark arched walkway. The contrast of cool and warm colors resembled a Maxfield Parrish painting. I pulled out my camera to capture this amazing sight. Then a huge sweaty man with camera bags dangling from his shoulders and a backpack full of supplies appeared. He stepped right in front of me. After he pulled out a tripod, he set up MY SHOT.

Dream #3.

I’m in a big city and am shopping in a boutique when I realize I’ve been separated from my family. We’re on vacation and have no way of communicating. I hear a bus roar from the curb and see them through the back window.

Wait. That actually happened to me in Ireland fifteen years ago.

Do you see a pattern?

I want something, but can’t have it. BOOM! That’s conflict. It’s the basis for basic storytelling.

I’ve read so many books where terrible things ALMOST happen. WHY??? A fictional character is a figment of the writer’s imagination. She is NOT real. These terrible things are NOT happening in real life. They are NOT your younger siblings or your children.

If you let your subconscious take over, it will do a better job of creating conflict and writing a book.

I understand the need to keep a main character alive until the end, but let her make mistakes, get into trouble, get hurt, and humiliate herself. The idea is to think of the worst-case scenario. Too obvious? Then let your subconscious go wild. Consider all the directions and see where another path takes you. Is it uncomfortable? Good. You’re on the right track.

Nobody wants to read about a fun day at Disneyland. We have Facebook for that.

But imagine a babysitter is trying to reel in five kids at Disneyland. She’s not getting paid enough. The children have been fighting all morning. One gets sick on a ride, then another gets hurt on Space Mountain. A child-trafficker is on the loose and has been stalking them. While the kid is getting bandaged, the babysitter counts heads. One is missing.

Now you have a story.

Make your characters suffer. If you make their journey easy, it becomes a travelogue or yawnfest.

You say you aren’t built that way? Yes, you are. Your sub-conscious makes you suffer every night. Working out conflict in your dreams is your brain’s way of making sense of the world.

When reading, we slip into another world seen through the character’s eyes. Their world should change after overcoming conflict. In turn, the best books should also change our perspective of the world.

I woke up after the camper responded, “Human.” But, what if I hadn’t?

First thing to come to mind? “Pass the barbecue sauce.”

Blame it on my Wild sub-conscious.

 

Are your dreams full of conflict? Have you read a book that didn’t go far enough? Do you have your Hugo or Edgar Award acceptance speech prepared?

Related posts:

What every writer knows about finishing

Think BIG!

Blogging Tips from a Wild Rider: How to Hook Readers

 

NEWS From The Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference

I attended my fourth writer’s conference. Although they are similar in format, this one always stands out in friendliness and inclusivity. A positive energy source emanates throughout the Colorado Spring’s Marriott. It must be built upon a special kind of bedrock. Agents, editors, and best-selling authors are willing to have conversations with people like me; the super fans of the conference.

Here’s what inspired me and what I learned:

If you write fiction: Your blog, social media presence, and overall author’s platform are meaningless to traditional publishers. The agents suggested focusing on writing books instead. After you’re published, they are grateful if you already have a blog since they’ll want to link you up.

If you write non-fiction: The polar opposite is true. You better have a successful blog with lots of social media followers as part of your author’s platform. You should be booked for public speaking engagements, interviewed on podcasts and in YouTube videos. Publishers look at anything and everything you’ve done to build your presence, following, credibility, and to show you’re a respected expert in your field.

Sign up for critique sessions. It can be unnerving, but the input is invaluable especially if an agent you would like to pitch is giving the critique. They are the experts who you are trying to impress.

Attend the agent panel. This is a top priority for me at every conference. They talk about their pet peeves, what’s new in publishing, etiquette, and include their individual stories. You get the most up-to-date info. Every one of them chose their career because they love to read books.

What I learned: Continue reading

Hitting the Halfway Point

Boulder Polar Plunge 2013 1

When I wrote my 25, 000th word for National Novel Writing Month, it reminded me of swimming through the Boulder Reservoir to touch the ice during the Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day. They’re both a sink or swim venture.  It got tough when I could barely touch the bottom. My legs and arms grew heavy with the cold and they moved in slow motion. In place of the silly grin I wore while splashing into the frigid water was sheer determination and a painful wince. One of the lifeguards standing on the pier shouted, “Do you need help?” It was hard to breathe, but I yelled back, “I can do it!”

I don’t know how many have dropped out of NaNoWriMo already, but the numbers have got to be high. I think writing 50,000 words in a month takes a certain kind of endurance. Crazy endurance. It’s for crazy people who have the time to commit, or in my case should be committed, but also have a lot of nerve and stamina. I love taking on new challenges and always have.

Not everyone can sit down and write on command. It can be intimidating to stare at a blank page. I’ve never had writer’s block. Maybe it’s all those Thursdays I found myself on a deadline and would crank out a Friday flash fiction or the stream-of-conscious writing exercises from a year ago when I woke up every morning for a month and wrote one word at time in a notebook until I filled a page. In both, I wrote the first thing that popped into my head. Continue reading

How to Unplug 4 Hours – It works!

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I bet you’re addicted. Come on. Admit it. How many times an hour do you check stats, emails, social media or text messages? Is it hard to unplug? How long do you procrastinate before settling down to do real work?

Although I have found my passion in writing and always meet deadlines, I recognized my addiction to the endorphin rush of the internet. Reading blog posts, watching views roll in (or sputter) after blogging or checking comments on my latest Facebook photo had sucked me into the spinning vortex. Even though I start writing around 9:00 AM each day, I felt as if a party was going on and I was missing out. I had become a victim of FOMO. Sometimes, I would stand and stretch at the end of the day, wondering where the time went.

A few months ago, I read an article by Adam Green who is a travel writer for Vogue Magazine. He lamented about missing deadlines and then faced the ultimate humiliation. He found out his office presented  a departing colleague with a mock Vogue cover. The headline read, “Adam Green Meets a Deadline.” His name had become synonymous with procrastination. Bummer.

He jumped at the opportunity to do an article on overcoming procrastination. After a Skype interview with self-help guru, Mark McGuinness, he made a plan. Adam made lists of work to be done and checked them off as he went and he used the program Freedom to block the internet for four hours a day. The structure really helped, but he still found himself researching instead of the doing the hard work of writing the piece. Mark suggested that he set a timer and write for twenty-five minutes straight. If he wanted, he could reset the timer.

After reading the article, I had an AHA moment. I don’t ever have a problem motivating to write, but I take too many breaks. Because I like to research while writing, Freedom wouldn’t work for me.

unplug4hours

I started #unplug4hours on Twitter. Once Tweeted, it became a public announcement of my commitment. When I clicked back to the internet by force of habit, I gasped as if being caught in a lie and clicked off again. Did anyone see me? Embarrassed, I hunkered down to work again.

Sometimes, I wrote for more than four hours. Other days, I wrote for a couple, but I’d keep the internet turned off and would use the rest of the time for research, to work on blog posts, or to throw in a occasional load of laundry. After four hours, I would get my internet fix while eating lunch, then I’d settle down again to write for another block of time. Pretty soon it became a habit, a good habit.

Do you have a project which is taking forever to complete? Does it feel strange to be outdoors without your phone in your pocket or hand? Do you recognize your family members?

Join me on Twitter @susielindau and #unplug4hours. If you don’t have a Twitter account, then announce it on Facebook or Instagram and ask others to join you. It really works!

You can download Mark’s free e-book, Time Management for Creative PeopleHERE.

Top image credit – Blue16Media.com 

Do you check the internet during the day?

Writer’s Conference Do’s and Don’ts or How to Avoid Abject Humiliation

A virginal experience can be frightening and take you out of your comfort zone, but it can also help you in ways you could never have imagined. This is exactly why I attended my first writer’s conference. I compiled a list of tips just for you!

Be on time.

The morning of the conference started with master’s classes and critiques which writers had signed up for weeks and months in advance. I registered the week before, but decided to sit in on a critique session. No biggie right?

When I finally made it through traffic, I was 30 minutes late. Volunteers chatted at a table set up in the entry of the hotel. I was told, “You’re late.”

“Yep. I know, but can I still audit a critique class?”

“I guess that’s alright.”

“Where do I go?” I looked around the vast atrium.

She pointed behind her. “Up the stairs.”

Think before you speak.

“Is there a particular critique group I should look for? I write paranormal thriller and wouldn’t want to end up in a non-fiction group.”

“Ma’am, we are the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. There are NO non-fiction critique groups.

My cheeks scorched while I continued to show my vast intellect. “Oh yeah. Duh.” Continue reading