Author, Behind the scenes, writing

Living in Two Worlds

Two-worlds

Have you ever felt like you need to be in two worlds, two places, or to think about two concepts at the same time? In today’s world, I know a lot of us experience being torn between multiple responsibilities. Multi-tasking is a way of life for most of us. It’s difficult to be fully invested in anything if you don’t feel grounded in the task of the moment, though. Needing to shift between tasks can be challenging. Obviously, this applies to many roles in our lives (employee, wife, friend…), but specifically for artists I think it can be challenging to switch mindsets and heart. Oh yes, my heart and soul is part of everything I do as an artist/writer, as you probably know by reading my past blogs. I think most artists feel the same way.

Specifically for my writing (since this is a behind the scenes blog of my author life!), I’ve noticed I work best when totally ingrained in the world of my story. I need to be inside the minds of the characters I am writing. I need to be imaging myself in their shoes, walking around in their setting I created. I can feel them with the emotions of the narrative and scenes. This is simply how I work. I see the story and the characters in my mind’s eye, mostly from the main character’s perspective, but I also have to get into the supporting character’s minds when writing their dialogue of course.

When writing my first novel, The Difference, I had a different luxury than currently; I could focus on one story. Don’t get me wrong I’m ecstatic for the opportunity to be able to have a writing career, but it takes a mind shift for a writer who works from total emotional investment. See, now I also need to keep moving forward with other stories I want to tell you as my readers. So I need to go back and forth between my novel I’ve worked on for years (for editing) and a new novel I am writing. It’s an incredible blessing but can be challenging. I tried to wait until edits were completely finished for my first novel before starting this WIP (work in progress), but I couldn’t wait any longer. The story was nagging at me to be told. Writers, you feel me on this, right? So now I’m officially living in two imaginary worlds. This picture of me at the Prime Meridian line shows how I feel sometimes, with each foot in a world I created.

split-at-prime-meridian

When I sat down to write my new story for the first time, I almost felt like I was cheating on Rachel, my main character in The Difference. Speaking as Mary in my current WIP took a little getting used to. Although I had her mapped out as a character on paper, to speak like her in my writing required me to keep viewing all the details I set out for myself on paper. I heard Rachel’s voice popping through a few times, but kept redirecting my thoughts to Mary. I had to essentially keep repeating “I’m speaking as Mary now. Mary, Mary, Mary!” I know this may sound confusing (because it is), but this is how it went for me. And I’m only involved in two manuscripts! How some authors can work on more than that at a time is beyond me. But anyway, what happens to me when I write these novels is that I feel I get in a state of flow, and this is helping me to stay in the world I need to be in at the moment. Have you heard the term flow?

Flow state was developed by the positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and he described it as being “in the zone.” He said in a TED Talk that “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity… [and] a sense of time disappears.” Friends, this is the magic part. This happens to me every time I’m writing fiction. I am a Type A person, but when in an artistic process, the rules and rigidity float away, and my concentration is at its height, yet is effortless. Before I know it, I have 1,000 words on the page. Flow state is where my best art comes from.

Now, I want to know if you have felt the flow state. I think it requires a few points to reach it, so if you haven’t felt it yet, maybe I can help with how I think it happens for me.

  • First, are you doing something you love? This is required, people, required. It has to be an activity that brings you joy, peace, and excitement. Remember, these thoughts are from my perspective so you may disagree.
  • Second, try to eliminate distracting noise. Can you have on music? Sure, if that is what you love to work with, but if you need silence, make that happen. I know it can be hard when you have others in your home, so it may take some negotiation or deal making for your needs.
  • Third, make sure you have a large chunk of time. I would say at least an hour, minimal. For me, it takes a little while to transition from the normal thinking to the creative thinking to the flow state. I view it as a meditative state in a way. So I need to allow time for the transition of total alertness to outside noise (typically beta state) down to more of an internally alert state (typically alpha state). Remember I am also a therapist, so I know this stuff, lol.
  • Fourth, go to it! Do your thing. Just let it…wait for it…flow. It will come if you are open to it. Just be. Be in the moment.

There you have it. Now we can all be in our own little worlds and never be present again. Um, just kidding. But we can be in our different creative zones and be in the flow state when we engage in our art. How exciting, right?

As I continue to work on my WIP, I have been leaving Rachel’s story in the back of my mind a little bit. I’m not releasing her or it, but just holding the story differently. Believe me, when I play writer games on Twitter (which is what we do in the #writingcommunity) and am asked to talk about my WIP, it’s the strangest feeling for me not to be talking about my first book. The moment I started referring to my new manuscript was jolting. Again, the cheating on Rachel! But I’ll be talking about The Difference the rest of my life, since that is what happens when you write and promote a book (especially so meaningful as my first published book). It’s okay that this new world of Mary’s is calling. And I have to tell you, being in the flow state again feels amazing. I haven’t experienced that in a while with writing because editing doesn’t allow that state for me (it uses more of my logical brain).

So, being in the two worlds is working out okay! Strange at first, but I am getting used to it. And as I dive into my different worlds of creation, I’m constantly thinking of more stories. One has been speaking a little more to me and may turn into a short story. I’ve never done that, and it may be fun to try. But, oh no, that’s a third split for me! I guess I’ll know I can handle it now. I look forward to the differences in character views, settings, and possibly the most enjoyable part…the flow. Immersing in multiple worlds isn’t so bad after all.

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Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Unexpected Gifts from the Online World

When I began my author social media sites, I never imagined where they would take me. I just knew that they are a must nowadays in the writing world. An author needs to build a platform so readers and industry professionals can see more about them, as well as see what products they are marketing. That’s pretty straightforward, so bam, I started them. I thought how I will post pictures and content related to subjects pertaining to my brand (you know by now that means writing, reading, Italy, and inspirational topics basically) and see what happens. Well, what happened includes a depth and meaning in my life I never expected.

See, I’m an only child. Yes, I am going wayyyy back. I know the phrase “only child” conjures up many stereotypical thoughts for most people, and you are not completely wrong, but I also don’t fit that entire mold. I didn’t grow up wealthy with getting anything and everything I wanted. But the qualities I did gain from this birth situation is that I am independent and a leader (when my shyness doesn’t get the best of me). I had to function on my own, entertain myself, and pave my own path in the world. Nobody was there to show me, including the big feat of going to college because my parents did not. I always had to find my own answers. Entering into the online world for my authorship, why would I think I needed or wanted help from others? Let’s continue.

Don’t get me wrong, before I established my social media and website, I did ask for help from trusted people in my life. I had three outstanding beta readers for my book, The Difference (I know I can’t do everything alone, sheesh). But, I know these people. I didn’t meet them online. They are safe for me and are long-lasting friends, so it wasn’t scary to let them help (beyond being vulnerable about my creation and worried about any and all thoughts, but that’s a given). Also, I obviously looked to other authors or experts in the field who have gone through the stage I was in at the moment, including researching articles, podcasts, and you name it. That’s expected help along the road in this field, as well as doesn’t include any risk of sharing myself. It’s a one-way deal.

Cue the two-way online relationships. I started to have comments on my posts from people I didn’t know in my personal life. So, I dipped my toes in the water of communicating with strangers. Slowly, I conversed with a few followers; mostly at this point fellow authors. Many times, I found their posts and comments helpful, insightful, and inspiring for my own journey. So here I was commenting, responding, and learning. And guess what; some people didn’t remain strangers. How wonderful to feel that someone else feels the same as me about certain topics, wants me to succeed, and is going through, or has gone through, the same things in this crazy business. Hmm, comfort started to build. And hmm, I needed their opinions and experiences sometimes.

I remember one day, shortly after establishing my account on Twitter, a kind soul posted to the “writing community” (people who follow hashtags like #WritingCommunity) how I was new to the platform and to give me a follow. How could someone who didn’t know me want to offer help like that? Just out of the blue! This was the first hint that online relationships can be…relationships. They can be special.

When I did my 1st pitch party on Twitter, my online relationships flourished even more. One person I had gotten closer to was there to answer a question as the party started. She was experienced and knew how to help me. And during that day, I had the privilege of SO many members of the “writing community” help me out by retweeting my pitches (side note, this helps get them seen for industry pros). See, I need other people! And some I still communicate with often.

I stared at the screen in awe and shock that day, feeling a sense of love from…strangers. How could this be? Yes, I would share their pitches also, but the fact that they took the time to help me out filled me with tingles and chills, you know, the good kind. I had felt touches of this camaraderie before this pitch party here and there, but this day sealed the deal. It also brought joy to know they feel the same as me as far as us not being in competition with each other. We can all bloom. If anyone has seen this famous quote in Zen Shin meditation, you know what I mean:

The cheering on of others continued in the grandest way in the next pitch party I participated in (the one where I got my publisher!). A friendly follower decided to not only share my pitch that day but wrote a little about what I told her my book is about, then tried to get her friends/followers to retweet it. This occurred each time I had a new pitch that day (3). She continued to check in on status and offer support. Well, now my mind was blown. How can someone I hardly spoke to, online, spend so much of her own time and effort on little old me?! I’m convinced her efforts contributed to my publisher seeing my tweet.

My heart was filled with gratitude to all of these sweet people, followers, and now…friends. What? How could I use that term with someone I never met in “real life?” I am a Gen X woman, so the idea of meeting people and trusting them when only having met online didn’t come easy for me (not to speak for my entire generation, but you know what I mean). And then the next circumstance shook me up even more, yet led to yet another impactful part of my life.

The person who helped me during the 1st pitch party developed a private group with her closest Twitter friends. One day she messaged all of us and said she felt that we needed to all be connected. Wow, was she right. Of course, my first instinct was to leave immediately due to fear. I only knew her and (ironically) the person who went above and beyond for me in the 2nd pitch party. There were 8 other women in the group who I never even saw on Twitter. But, I trusted my friend at this point. I allowed myself to be open to staying in the group. Thank God.

Months later, I can’t imagine not having these intelligent, beautiful souls who just happen to be writers as well in my DAILY life. We started talking shop, you know, writing stuff, but quickly expanded our topics of conversation. You name it, we talk about it. I check in usually multiple times a day and look forward to chatting with them. We read each other’s work, offer guidance any anything industry related, and give each other heads up for events in the field. We root each other on constantly. So, not only are they there for me no matter what, as I am for them, they continually inspire me, motivate me, help me with my confidence, and best of all, make me laugh hysterically. We help each other get further along in our goals and have a bonus of unconditional love and support that I would have never dreamed of… all online. We have never met in person (yet).

Being an only child (and Italian), my friends are my family. I have heard that many only children feel this way. Once you are a good friend who I can completely trust, I will be loyal to the end. These women in my private message group are in my heart forever. They, along with a few other amazing people I’ve met online, are people I never knew I needed. Not wanted, needed. The writer world can be harsh, so why not get a little help from your friends. It’s a time of people helping people in the world, and the author world is no different. As one of my favorite shows of all time has in their theme song, “I’ll be there for you.” And I am forever grateful for my friends I’ve met over the last year or so. Let’s keep helping each other, building friendships, and remaining open to possibilities. I know I am.

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