How Rules Can Free A Writer’s Mind

I won’t be posting an excerpt from my novel this week. I’m just not at a place today where I have anything polished enough or complete enough for a blog post. But I do have something for you guys! And I have been working.

Tonight I will post something given to me by an old friend. It is something that has helped me immeasurably in my quest to make real progress on my novel and on writing in general.

Organizing Thoughts

When writing, I frequently suffer from what I call Overload-itis. My mind gets so full with big ideas that they weigh me down like cinder blocks and I get totally stuck. For this reason, I am terrible at starting things. And because I am a perfectionist, I often overwhelm myself with minutia even after I get going.  My usual thought process used to go something like this:

*Random idea pops into head
*Decide to add random idea to story
*Random idea branches into several tangential possible plotlines
*Can’t decide where plotlines fit in with story
*Get stuck on inconsequential detail of inconsequential sub-plotline
*No longer remember original idea
*Head explosion
*Death

With this kind of thought process, writing can quickly become work and lose its appeal.

Understanding my… eccentric mind, my friend drafted a rough outline template to help me when I write. It has worked wonders! Of course, the process will be different for everybody, but this has really worked for me. With a few tweeks, maybe this can help some of you guys with organizing your thoughts as well.

Here is what she sent to me verbatim, minus the Comic Sans font:

Outline

————————

1.Set out a 4 page document 1st page title “Rough Outline”, 2nd page “Events to be Added Later”, 3rd page “Character Sketches”, 4th page “Recurring Themes, Symbols”

2a. Read through every scene you’ve already written
2b. As you read through each scene, summarize it briefly – as few words as you can only enough to trigger your mind to remember which scene you’re talking about.
2c. If you can figure out right away where you want it in the book, put it as a bullet on your first page, if it starts to frustrate you cuz you can’t think of the order, put it on the second page – this part should go quick you either know where or you don’t choose a page and move to the next scene

3. If what you’ve written is an idea or theme, summarize it briefly and put on 4th page

4. Each time you come across a character, put the name in a bullet on the third page

5. To build their “Sketches” either
A. Jot down character traits as you come across them while your reading over
B. Wait til you’ve read through everything then write a jist of how each character has developed so far

6. Start writing! Where ever you want, but now you can add to your outline every time you write a scene, think of a new event you want to happen, a new theme you’d like to explore, or develop a character; but don’t make it something you “have” to do but rather something that is helping you. If you don’t feel like adding to the outline after every scene, don’t just keep writing. Whenever you feel your losing track of your ideas, go back through everything and update your outline.

7. Occasionally read through your outline – see if you’ve decided where to put events on page two, make sure your developing your characters on page 3, and make sure your adding the themes you wanted on page 4

8. Give this womanzy kiss

 

This type of loose organization has really helped me keep my thoughts together, while at the same time freeing my mind from the distracting minutia that impedes creativity. Of course I have adjusted it a little bit over time to suit my own writing style, but the general principles remain intact. The point is, sometimes it helps to create a loose set of rules. Guiding rules can give our writing purpose and actually promote the creativity that gets lost in the mess of our minds.

Happy Writing!

-Garrett

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The Beautiful Storm: Life’s elegant struggle

(MAZE IN MY MIND #5)

Chincoteague Island. The Beautiful Storm.Every once in awhile, we are lucky enough to witness those beautiful, awe-inspiring sights that are etched into our memories forever. Later, when our mind wanders, we are free to revisit the mental photograph, to give meaning to the image in our mind.

 

It feels strange being the tallest object around you. From where I stood, I could see for miles. Out in the distance, past the marsh and beyond the dry cracked wasteland, I watched the black clouds encroach and expand, absorbing the tiny outlines of distant trees in their shadow. The storm was rolling in, and I could feel an instinctual anxiety building in my bones.

MOVE

My body told me to leave, to find shelter, but my eyes were transfixed. I had never seen anything like this before. I could see the grey wisps building at the horizon, growing and darkening as they drifted closer and closer.

Storm on the Horizon

 

 

 

 

As the storm approached, its massive body descending over the clearing, the sky was divided into two halves. The left half of the sky was a high and brilliant blue. It was cloudless, clear, and inviting. The right half was darkness– fear and shadow.

RUN

I stood, feeling smaller than I have ever felt. My miniature figure was dwarfed by the churning, black sky. As I watched, the clouds seemed to reach down towards the earth, as if they wanted something– needed something.

I felt primal fear. But also an overwhelming awe. Fingers from the heavens. Claws from the clouds. What had they come to take? What on Earth was powerful enough to stop them? This was a force of nature. Of God.

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I Left. But even in the car, alone on the road, there was a lingering sense of vulnerability. The car rolled down the street, as the clouds rolled in above. The world was being covered in a black blanket. Moments later, the air was full of water and fury.

*******************************************************

I know now what the clouds wanted, what they took.
They gathered up all the fear. They gathered all the bad, the stagnant and the dark, and they contained it in a tumultuous assault of wind and rain. What the clouds could not contain in the sky, they unleashed on the ground in an angry onslaught. Then the clouds took what was left of the pain, and the bad, and the evil– and they left…

They took the old, and they made it fresh. Without that storm, the wastelands would have remained cracked, the marsh would have dried, the air would have been stagnant, and life would have been stifled.  Sometimes a storm is needed. Sometimes the fear, and the struggle, and the hurt are just God’s fingers, pulling out our pain, and gathering it to the sky.

The peace that comes after a storm is not possible without the violence.

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Life is full of storms. Sometimes they will be necessary. Sometimes they will be big and seem impossible. Just remember, the stronger the storm, the more intense your peace will be after you weather it.

The Beautiful Storm
-Garrett Ashe

IAmGarrett

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Maze in my Mind #4: Butterfly of the Frost

Here is a note that I left for myself. It reads “Moth of the winter. Butterfly of the frost.”  

I was outside last week when the sleet started. I was sitting alone on a bench in the woods– feeling very low and gazing despondently at the brittle, barren branches that surrounded me on all sides– when the ice began to fall. As the wind froze my face and the cold pellets bounced off of the ground all around me, it seemed like the perfect time for me to look towards the cloudy sky and ask aloud if things could possibly get any worse.

Later in the day, the clouds cleared away and the Sun found its place in the sky, as it always does eventually. The temperature warmed to just above the freezing mark and the gusty wind subsided, leaving only a slight breeze in its wake. It was about this time– late afternoon– when I was walking to my car, ready to head home after a long, strenuous day. All day I had been looking for a sign of hope, and while anything obvious had remained elusive, I was glad that at least the worst of the storm seemed to have past.  As I reached to open my car door, I was halted by an erratic fluttering of wings appearing suddenly in front of my eyes. I took a dazed step back, and stared confused at what I saw. It was a large blue moth, floating through the air, hovering directly above my silver, snow-coated car. It took a second for me to notice the novelty. This was late December, the dead of winter, yet this tiny creature had found a way to fly.  Butterfly wings beating to the backdrop of snow. I quickly made a note in my phone.

Note to Self

Of course, I know it’s true that we see what we want to see in our lives. But maybe, just maybe, it is also true that sometimes we are shown the things that we need to see. I was inspired by the sight that I beheld that afternoon, by the tiny, blue moth that survived the sleet. Today is January first. This New Year, I resolve that I will spread my wings in the cold, and fly, against all odds, to new heights. Like a butterfly in the frost.

-Garrett Ashe

 

I will have my next short fiction story up by Thursday night. It will play on these themes of transformation and ascertaining the truth behind the things we see.

(Read previous “maze in my mind” posts)

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Story of A Snowman (Happy New Year!)

(MAZE IN MY MIND #4)

This is an interpretation of the past week’s events. It is the story of a Snowman.

The Snowman

There once was a Snowman, built happy and strong from the fresh snow of Yesterdays. He was pampered and loved by his builder… at least for awhile. Then he was quietly abandoned

snowman_before

As time passed, the Snowman became sad and lonely. The builder checked in from time to time, but was far too busy for an old toy. He had moved forward to new things, much much more important than a silly figure made of snow.

But the Snowman, like all investments of the mind and heart, was made of far more than just snow. He was made of love and memories. And without love and affection, the Snowman began to melt.

When the builder saw this, a part of him was sad. But he had already moved on. The Snowman had been a fun adventure in passing, but had already served his purpose. The builder, of course, could not afford to dwell long on the well-being of a silly man made of ice. Instead, seeing the sad condition of his old friend, the builder made some quick cosmetic adjustments to keep the snowman together, and once again moved hastily onward.

Sad Snowman

Days passed and the Snowman grew sickly. Through loveless neglect, he became shrunken and mangled. A sad shadow of his former self; a sad reflection of his current circumstances. Eventually, the builder returned to find him melting and in this miserable state. The builder tried to pack what was left of his old friend back together.

The atrocity that resulted was a filthy, disturbed mass of hardened ice. The builder took a step back. This new Snowman was a pure manifestation of hate and madness– the Snowman’s anger and the builder’s self-loathing.

Demented Snowman

 

Look now to the puddle in the grass. Water and regret.
The Snowman is gone.

You see, a snowman thrives on the cold, just as we thrive on warmth. Without an icy touch, the snowman becomes an ugly shadow of his former self. Without the warm touch of genuine love, we too will slowly waste away.

Dead Snowman

 

We are heading into a new year. Let us not become Snowmen. Let us not fall victim to the icy hardening of our hearts. Let us be builders. And Let us protect and value the things we build and the people we build with. Happy New Year!

-Garrett

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas: Finding Joy Through the Pain

(MAZE IN MY MIND #3)

Merry Christmas Everyone ,

I wasn’t originally going to write today, but I decided to take a few moments to share my personal thoughts on the Holidays. Maybe this piece will be of help to anybody struggling with pain during this Holiday Season. It can be an especially tough time for loss and hardship. Perhaps, rather than letting it bring us down, we can shape it into something that will boost us up.

~G

Finding Holiday Joy Through the Pain

What to Wear

I woke up this Christmas morning, and I couldn’t decide how to feel. I love the Christmas season, but recent life events have made it hard to feel as “merry” as I would like. So this morning I just couldn’t decide whether to jump out of bed and put on a red Santa hat with a smile, or to bury my face in the pillow and sleep the day away in my PJ’s. I couldn’t decide what to wear, so I simply decided to wear the truth.

Wearing The Truth

Like most, I’ve had some big loss and some big heartbreak in my life. From my experience, confronting the truth has consistently been the best first-step in overcoming my problems and getting through the dark times. As I move forward, through the Holiday season, I am making sure to speak and think the truth every day. Sometimes it feels good, and sometimes it hurts. I encourage you to do the same. If you need to scream… Scream! If you want to sing… Sing! And if you feel like smiling from time to time… Then please, for God’s sake– Smile :). Keeping it tucked away will only light you on fire and destroy you from the inside out. Let the truth out, Guys. Everyday. Even if you just write it down or speak it to yourself.

Scrooge That!

There’s always that pressure to conform to other people’s standards and celebrate Christmas traditionally. SCREW THAT! You are the only one who really knows what you are going through, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating the Holidays in your own special way. Taking control will actually make you feel better. That doesn’t mean skipping Christmas and New Years, it means celebrating them in a way that makes sense to you. Sometimes nontraditional feelings or pain call for nontraditional celebration. Just make sure that you don’t bury your head and dismiss the Holidays all together. This is a special time of year… don’t miss the opportunity to use that to your advantage and start to heal. I am spending the majority of this day studying for a GRE graduate test that I have tomorrow, and I’m okay with that. It makes me feel productive. Maybe I’ll even treat myself to a movie later today. Maybe I’ll take someone that’s special to me. The point is, make the holidays what YOU need them to be. This is your life.

Merry Christmas, Me!

When we really feel down, many times we get down on ourselves. During the Holiday season, seeing so many other happy people and couples can, at times, make us feel even worse about our less-than-perfect situations. Try this: Look in the mirror and tell yourself “I love you,” or better yet, give your mirror self a big wet kiss. Make it genuine. If you feel like you’re not there yet, do something to help yourself get there. Think about what things you do like about yourself– Not surface things, but deep down characteristics. You have them, time to pull them out and start recognizing them.

Time and Action Warm Up Your Heart

Hot Coco would be nice right about now, and maybe a brisk walk to warm up my heart and clear my mind. The old adage is true: Time heals wounds. But only time spent the right way. Things are never fully healed until we take action to heal them. Think of it this way: Time is the bandage, but our thoughts and actions are the neosporin.  The best thing we can do for ourselves during these colder months, is to keep moving. Even small steps will keep us warm, as long as we’re headed towards the sun. Instead of running away from our problems, lets run toward a solution. Let’s find a way through this maze in our minds.

Merry Christmas, All

So yeah, I wish you all a Merry Christmas; but more than that, my wish is that you get the opportunity to celebrate Christmas as you wish. Whether they are traditional or nontraditional, may your holidays bring you love and nourish your soul.

Happy Holidays, Guys.

-Garrett

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The Famished Heart

The Famished Heart

This fucking hole where my heart used to be.
Starved and Emptied.
I fill it with Sadness. But drain it as the tears begin to drown me.
And it’s empty again.
I fill it with Hate. But douse it as the flames begin to melt me.
And it’s empty again.
Empty and Painful.
This fucking hole where my heart used to be.

I need to find a way to fill it with me.

-Garrett Ashe

(Maze in my Mind #2)

Lately I’ve been through a lot of emotional turmoil. This quick poem, written today, is a reflection of some of that pain. Later today, I will post a short story that also plays on the pain of heartache- A story that chronicles the events of a real-life Fairy Tale gone wrong. (The Little Glass Lie)

~G~

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Maze in my Mind #1

Every blog needs that personal touch. I’m starting this new section where I let readers explore a little piece of my mind… Careful, sometimes it gets pretty dark in there.  If you’re looking for this section in the future, there should be a permanent link in the sidebar under “Categories.”

Maybe you’ll identify with some of the things I talk about: Musings, fears, emotions. Feel free to share a piece of your own mind here as well, as we wander together, Into the maze…

 

 

For personal writings, including poetry and nonfiction, get lost in the Maze in my Mind.

Maze in my Mind

 

 

 

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