A Spooky Writing Update

I went to that conference I said I was going to go to. And it was super helpful. Um, not in the way that I thought it would be though.

I had a critique workshop. And oh, boy. You know yours isn’t very good when everyone pauses before their critique and goes, “Okay, yeah… … so this one…”

critiqueaww

*Me, listening to their critiques with my hand on my chin.* Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yep. Okay. Perfect! I know exactly how to fix this.

*scoops entire manuscript off the desk and into the wastebasket underneath*

I’m kind of glad. From the beginning, I knew this had some really messy challenges. It was the first novel that I had ever formally finished and even though the premise is cool, it’s extremely difficult to pin down and write… and have it make any sense.

I spent the first day of the conference mourning the unpublishable mess I had scooped together, and then the next day of the conference pushed me in a really good direction. I realized that through all of the obsession over publishing I had completely abandoned my original dream (I couldn’t think of a less dramatic way to say it haha). That dream is to one day in my lifetime, have an entire bookcase full of my own printed-out manuscripts. I’ll always aspire to be traditionally published, but I have too many book ideas to be married to just one.

The fog lifted. The direction became clear. I NEED to start writing my next book IMMEDIATELY. That has been the obvious take away from both the conference… and also from being aggressively haunted…

haunted

Yeah, so, okay. There are muses. And then there is Lennon. I’ve already mentioned how pushy he is as a muse … it’s no joke. I COMPLETELY understand why there are THOUSANDS of books and movies (and Broadway plays even) that are all about him. Because honestly, once he picks you. You’re done. You’re writing something for him right then and there. Maybe that’s even how he continues to influence music. I mean, probably.

musician

I tried to read a book. A manuscript for my critique partner. And this imaginary Lennon-presence-thing would have none of it.

 

LENNON: Reading again, ay?

ME: Go away, John, this has nothing to do with you.

LENNON: Hmm, you’re right you know. How about this ol’ bookie that Cyn wrote about me, then?

ME: No, thanks.

LENNON: Let’s have a look…

ME: I already committed to—

LENNON: LET’S HAVE A LOOK THEN, SHALL WE!

 

So, whatever, I ended up switching mid-way through for one of the books that Cynthia Lennon wrote. (“John”) I read it in like a single day, because of this imaginary shotgun to the head. At the end of the book she mentions that John had once told Julian that if anything were to ever happen to him, he would send a white feather. So that anytime Julian saw a white feather he would know that ‘John was there and watching out for him’. Which I thought was a really nice sentiment.

OKAY UNTIL WHITE FEATHERS STARTED SPONTANEOUSLY POPPING UP ALL AROUND ME EVERY FREAKING DAY.

The first time, it was a cool anomaly. I was walking the boys to my neighbor’s house and there it was. A perfect pure white tail feather. I was ecstatic, because wow, what were the odds of finding a pure white feather the day after finishing that book? I took a picture even.

20190726_114437
awkward phone shadow bro

I began seeing white feathers every single day (still do btw). On the sidewalk, on my car, on the playground, even in the pool.

One time, we took the kids outside to play and I told my husband about how weird it was that I was finding these perfectly white feathers all over. He totally laughed at me. He said, “Okay, just because you have a little crush on John Lennon you think he’s trying to give you a sign or something…” I shrugged. Because, yeah, that was probably right. And I went inside the apartment to get the boys a drink of water…

My husband swears that right after our conversation, as soon as I shut the door behind myself, A WHITE FEATHER DROPPED FROM A BIRD AS IT FLEW OVERHEAD, RIGHT WHERE I HAD BEEN. And he got the heebie jeebies … and now he doesn’t make fun of me for it anymore…

But even after that, I was like, wow. Pretty funny coincidence…

Do I need to mention again how pushy this muse is?

John-being-cheeky-in-the-plane-the-beatles-41011791-497-322

This one day, I’m coming back from lunch with the boys. I get out of my car. Notice the feather. Haha, there’s my feather for the day. Cute. Still happening. I take another step. Another feather. Step. Feather. Step. Feather.

I freaking look up to see -THIS IS NOT A JOKE OR MADE UP STORY OR PRANK PULLED BY MY HUSBAND THIS IS A REAL THING THAT HAPPENED THE OTHER DAY – small white feathers were scattered on both sides of the pavement leading all the way up to my front door.

I slowly walk inside with my children. Turn the deadbolt. And call Ghostbusters.

Anyway, long story short, I started writing a book about John Lennon. So, that’s fun!

 

GUEST POST: “Just Start” Annie Cowden

 

JUST START PLEASE!

Hey, you creative geniuses!! You have so many ideas just swirling through your head constantly. So, I bet you can relate to some of these phrases you have when it comes to thinking about making that vision come to life.

Does this sound familiar?

• Once I am more clear, THEN I will start!
• I’m just waiting until I have a little more clarity
• I don’t know what I want yet, so I’m just waiting
• I’m trying to figure out what it is EXACTLY I’m meant to do before I do anything

HOMIES!! I got to tell you something. And that is, this type of thinking can become habitual thinking and it is a straight up trap. As long as you keep thinking that way….no big surprise here — you’re going to keep thinking that way. Waiting leads to more waiting, period. If you wait to decide on one thing, you’ll wait to decide the next thing. And then you will comfort yourself by saying ah I’ll wait till the next go around. I’ll wait till things aren’t so crazy in my life. I’ll wait until ____________________.

There is one small (large) problem with that.

The TRUTH is, is there are not very many guarantees. So you’re betting on something that you don’t know and you can’t know is going to happen. Think about it: Are you waiting to start writing until you have the dream writing office with natural light and a fountain and no kids screaming in the background. Or maybe you’re waiting until you have more free time. (that seems kind of vague to me no offense, but I hear that one all the time).

TODAY IS ALWAYS THE DAY. Today is the day to do something towards getting your creative project off the ground. Because here is the punchline:

“Clarity doesn’t come before action, action comes before clarity”

Now hold up- I understand how this could be confusing when there is so much advice on being specific about your audience, your message, your mission statement, who you are, what you do, etc. But YOU GUYS stop taking labels so seriously. There are not rules in life. You can change your bio and your title whenever you want. You can change it twice a day if you want! You can self designate yourself whatever you want, at any time, without having to ask a soul.

 

Here’s Why You Have to Take Action Before Clarity:

 

When I say take action, I mean- what logistically and literally has to happen in order to make this happen. Who has to be contacted? What do you have to create? What physical things do you need ready?

Now ask yourself, “what is the quickest way to get this done”. Because there’s a whole lot of mojo that goes into getting a book published, recording a song, starting a business, etc. But many people start with the fluff instead of start with the juicy stuff. It’s like you’re spending all your time on the whipped cream and keep procrastinating making the pie which is what you really love doing and what you do best.

So, before I get a song recorded, I have procrastinated because of a gazillion of reasons, but I can sum them up like this:

• The song isn’t good enough yet
• I don’t know anyone who will record the guitar part for me
• I can’t afford it
• I’m waiting until I can find backup singers

Just some typical fluff. Which I know you can see similarities amongst any craft. Here’s the truth though-all of these “excuses” or “obstacles” are either A) Not true or B) can be overcome by taking action on that specific task.

So if the true, ONLY THING STOPPING me is “I can’t afford it”, if that is really honestly and sincerely the truth, then my only focus from that point on becomes getting creative to get the money. My new task at hand is to earn the money. If you will truly do anything for your craft, then these excuses don’t matter. I immediately dig into my skill sets and think what I can offer, sell clothes, reach out to people who need a dog walker or a babysitter, have a yard sale, skip out on a cost I normally buy (sacrifice something else). Because believe me, it’s possible if you want it.
Similarily if my excuse is “I don’t have backup singers yet” or “I don’t know anyone who can play a guitar” then I just need to stop whining about it and say: Okay, well what would an established professional who was looking for a musician do? Journal out all the possible solutions to your problems, and one of them will land home with you. Try one of them or try all of them.

You Are Allowed to Change Your Mind

 

Changing your mind does not mean giving up. I always want you to be honest with yourself. If you truly deeply desired to run a 10K but after 2 weeks had a few bad days and gave up, that’s not the same thing as changing your mind. But if you showed up your best self, made a promise to yourself to follow a training schedule, gave it enough time to give yourself the chance to form a new habit, then you will be opened up and exposed to more avenues of things you love more.

Maybe you stick to the training plan, and because of that you see a class at the gym which ends up bringing you WAY MORE JOY than running. If you wind up choosing the class over training, it isn’t necessarily giving up. However, it’s all about your initial intention anyway. You have to be honest about why you wanted to do the race.
-why you wanted to write the book
-why you wanted to start the non-profit
-why you wanted to be a teacher
-why you wanted to be in the show

Knowing your why will keep you going. So don’t skip taking the time to know your why!

The reason why action brings clarity, is because you are likely doing something you have never done before. So how in the world are you supposed to know exactly what to say, do, wear, when you have not done something before?!?? Sometimes I have ideas for camps/workshops for various musical theatre camps and voice lesson programs, but I avoid going to edit and finalize the flyer because “I don’t know for sure what I am offering”.

Guess what: as long as my flyer stays as a draft on my laptop, then I’m not sharing my musical passion with anyone, nobody’s kids are getting my joy and energizing classes, I’m not getting any money from my gifts, ALL BECAUSE I AM WAITING TO COME UP WITH THE PERFECT IDEA.

So to sum this up, in my case taking action can be WORKING ON THE FLYER. Maybe my very first day I don’t have to print it and hang it up, but every day I work on the flyer, the idea change a little bit. The time length of the workshop changes, the price changes, the concept changes, and the more I work on it, the closer and closer it gets to feeling like home. But I know well enough that there is no such thing as perfect, so once it hits a place that feels good and exciting in my body, I then have to take the action to print out the flyers and hang them up. And no, I don’t know all the logistics, but I will know as I go along.

To writers: When you are writing, you are not writing in permanent marker on something that is going to be hung in a museum with your name on it. You literally can change it, always. But NEVER save a good idea for later. That is the worst thing a creative can do. Because then you are essentially believing you won’t get any better ideas. Do you know how many amazing chord progressions that have come to me that I didn’t make a song with because I was waiting until I was a “better songwriter” to use them? That sounds so silly now!

The next time you feel that dark cloud come over you when you are about to begin a project, say this affirmation:

I have unlimited permission to change this as many times as I want.

We are so weird as humans. We always need permission don’t we? Sometimes just acknowledging that whatever you create isn’t permanent, is so liberating.

ALSO.

It’s very liberating to understand that, so long as you aren’t breaking laws…you really can’t screw up your path that much. We spend a lot of mental energy making decisions because we want to be “right”. Here’s a secret…one decision you make isn’t really going to alter your destiny. If you want to try doing slam poetry, well you might as well try it because we only got like 99 years on this earth so just keep doing you. When in doubt, just bring it back to the now, and ask what excites you most? ALWAYS follow the joy. Always follow the fun.

I am going to leave you with one book recommendation and one song recommendation!

Book: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
Song: Follow the Compass of Your Heart https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY5JTxFt2pM

 

Annie

 

ANNIE COWDEN is a singer, songwriter and motivational speaker. When she’s not traveling the world, she works with teens and young adults who feel deeply inspired to create amazing things in their life. She is a self-discovery leader, adventure-seeking heart follower, and music is her first language. If you would like to learn more about her coaching, please follow her wonderful page on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/AnniesVizion/