Archive for category Revision

Riding the Wave of Uncertainty

It dismays me every time I see that I’ve let so much time pass since my last post. No, it doesn’t bother me to admit that because just like everyone else, my forehead is emblazoned with the words “work in progress.” Here’s what has been on my mind (and plate) lately. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea of uncertainty and creativity for dual reasons – I’m giving my first seminar on creativity at the end of the month and I’ve been rereading Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields.

I do a lot of encouraging or coaching (as is might be termed by some) and I’ve noticed that handling uncertainty is an ability that a lot of artists do not possess. When faced with doubts or fears, I’ve seen artists push themselves forward to success, or self-sabotage, or choose a path that will ensure them the least amount of pain during the process of creation. In recovery, I’ve learned that this is training we should have had as children – to deal with the uncertainty of outcomes in a healthy manner. Not that I’m suggesting that all artists or writers are recovering from some ‘ism,’ but that’s always a healthy avenue to investigate if you find yourself constantly short-changing your creative process to stop the pain.

What’s this pain; this uncertainty about? Fields asserts (and I agree) that the double nature of uncertainty is the fear of what the outcome will be and how the outcome will be perceived (judged.) Like most artists, I realize the fear signals the foothold of what could be a fantastic idea – an idea worth exploring or an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up because the experience will be invaluable. It’s what we choose to do as the pain creeps into our psyche that will determine the depth of the creative process.

Fields details an experiment where subjects were asked to choose a ball from one of two urns. Urn #1 is filled with 100 balls – 50 black and 50 white. Urn #2 also contains 100 balls but the percentage of which is black or white is unknown. The subjects had to bet $100 on a color of their choice. Then they had to choose which urn to pick from. Can you guess which most people chose? Even though neither configuration had a mathematical or logical advantage, the majority of the subjects choose the first urn.

Because pain is uncomfortable and our fight or flight instinct usually prompts us to flight, most people will choose the path of ‘constraint.’ They stop exploring, close off options and create rules, look for systems and processes to justify their choices because of their aversion to the unknown and to being judged. At that point the adapting, testing, and experimenting and evolving is over. Continuing in the uncertainty, on the other hand, can lead to heightened creativity and a level of creative options that would otherwise not have been seen.

Sounds logical, right? But as I constantly ask my therapist – what do I do with all these feelings? (now that I’m not stuffing them, eating them, and denying them.) He says – just feel them. As crappy as uncertainty, fear, and anxiety feels – feel them and keep on creating. It’s okay not to know or be able to predict exactly how things will turn out. It’s very uncomfortable at first but it’s a worthwhile pursuit because what we live out in our creative processes, we also live out in our personal lives. What benefits one will benefit the other. Push through, work through the pain, and be amazed at what you produce.

How have you dealt with uncertainty in your life and your creative process lately?

©2012 Carolyn Moore

Food for thought: Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields
& Deciding to Push by Carolyn Moore.

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The Reality of Recovery, Part 1

When someone has suffered a trauma, we know they seek to recover a sense of peace and balance – the very thing they lost due to this unexpected event that crashed into their lives. When we refer to addicts & alcoholics, in terms of recovery, in the acceptable sense, we say that these individuals seek to recover their sobriety. Unfortunately what we, as a society miss completely is that sobriety is a goal but not the point. Or you might say, not the punchline. No one would deny that it is a battle to get sober whether its sex, food, smoking, alcohol, PTSD, or drugs you’re struggling to overcome. However, once the battle is won, so to speak, oftentimes families are in tatters, relationships are destroyed, people are separated from those they fought with and for, for this sobriety, floundering, wondering why life is only minimally better after the defeat of the great big ‘ism.’

Recovery it seems, to me, is like child-rearing. Everyone tells you that it’ll change your life and it’s really hard, but they never tell you how gut-wrenchingly bad it will be at times. It’s like that with the healing that accompanies sobriety.  Conquering an addiction is hard. Nailing the root cause of why the addiction began is excruciating. Some people never get to this part of the process. They stick with the 12 steps and go to their meetings, they stay sober, but they never know that life can be better than just drug-less.

Finding the root cause – the ‘why did I choose this method to avoid, not feel, escape, stuff, repress, or hide, what I was feeling and experiencing. Why did I feel so angry, abandoned, powerless to control my circumstances and therefore seek to give up that control to feel whatever pleasure I could grab. This kind of introspection requires an honest most people are not capable of – we like to be liked, we like to please others and we like to look good in front of others.

Even further from this intimate recovery process are the non-addicts – the family members and friends, not because they have suffered at the hands of addictive behaviors – though that’s totally valid but because they have not acknowledged or healed from their part as enablers in the relationships. They are the people who had to deny what they were feeling, experiencing, repressing, and stuffing, keeping secrets about. Spending their time keeping the peace, accepting unacceptable behaviors, making excuses. In their attempt to control, they are as out of control as the addict himself. And codependency now enters the conversation…

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New Year’s Attitudes & Adjustments

While I find the idea of resolutions pretty silly, I love goal setting. The act of committing to achieving or acquiring something I desire, plotting out a course of action, and attaching a significant emotional quotient to back up my commitment is heady. Particularly when I’m hopeful about what a new year will bring. So much begins to happen when I actually believe amazing things are possible and not just something that may happen someday if…

This fall my personal circumstances were altered in such a way that a radical course change in my thought process had to occur. If I did not choose a more positive, character-driven direction, I would be faced with choices that were not anything that I actually desired. I had succumbed to a bit of martyr complex as if circumstances were determining how I lived my life instead of those decisions being within my control.

I began to question what I believed God had in mind for my life based on what I saw around me. My faith took a critical hit because I believed I saw failure in following the course to which I had committed.  My attitude and my actions swerved off onto different paths causing dissonance and dissatisfaction which led me to rock bottom anticipating a life change I did not want.

As always, coming around again to reassess what God has planned, after a long hike about a mountain of despair and regret, I’m firmly recommitted, attitude and action once again reunited, to my ministry of encouraging others through my business (which has now been redefined and diversified) and personal pursuits (including the 10K and the beach at Christmas!) I’m grateful for the Lord’s persistence and my sisters’ faithful prayers. I prefer God’s path regardless of the obvious payoff. He has shown me His steadfastness this past year and I’m learning the depths of steadfast faith. Let the faith building exercises begin and the blessings fall. Happy New Year!

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The Energy of Revision

I suspect that my friends in the local writers group cringe every time they hear me say the word ‘revision’ or ‘editing.’ I’m constantly sharing my perspective as well as articles, tips, and quotes on the process of revision.  I’ve become a big fan since I decided that perpetual procrastination (which allows for minimal reflection) was not producing a quality of work that I desired. It’s taken about 30 years to reach this point.

In high school, revising was not promoted. You did the work; maybe did a little editing for grammar and spelling and then submitted the project. It was graded and the process was over.  In college, the process was expanded somewhat, but it really wasn’t until I was working on my senior project to complete my BA about three years ago that I really understood the significance of revision.

Everyone loves the creative process especially when it’s a day that words are just flowing from your fingers to the page. It’s new and exciting. It’s the first time those words – the feelings, the colors, the smells  – are in a tangible form that can be shared with others. It’s a cathartic experience full of ups and downs, new adventures, and discoveries about our characters and ourselves as writers.

Revision, by comparison, sounds like drudgery.  Correcting verb tenses, tightening up sentences, deleting unnecessary modifiers, and perhaps deleting a finely crafted section of our masterpiece. It’s this possibility that makes the revision process seem so heinous – suggesting perhaps in a perfect moment of spontaneous creativity that a sentence or a paragraph or a scene, even, may have been created only to be thrown into a void.  Could something that is written in this perfect state not be necessary to further the story?

For that senior project, I spent a year writing and revising the first 100 pages of a novel. I learned that the revision process has an exciting energy of its own. It’s quite different from the energy of creation, but equally is creative and just as important. It’s not just about grammar and spelling or verb tenses. Revision is a stage of listening, gauging, questioning, and evaluating.  Instead of being in my character’s shoes, I’m now walking by her side making sure she’s following the path that is truest to her nature. I’m listening to her voice to be sure that it’s genuine to her personality and observing her actions for authenticity. It’s like falling in love again with your story from a mentor’s point of view instead of a participant’s.

And I learned through 365 days with these words, that even if there is such a thing as the perfect sentence – there will always be others and that holding onto an awesome sentence when it doesn’t further the story is pretty silly. I highlight and delete at will now. I don’t even copy and paste the words to a separate file anymore. There will be other words; other sentences.

Revision is about breaking free from the fear that you’ve already put down all the good words you have about a story.  Revision allows us to stop and reflect, observe, and commune with our characters and themes. It’s the time to make that fine detail even finer; the voice even stronger; the ideas richer. A time to develop as a writer.

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