It’s a weekend in early March and I thought it would be easier to find solitude here. I’m away at a conference in Muskoka. Snow and ice stretches across Lake Rosseau. After the workshops I have time in the evenings to write. My room is quiet. The fireplace settles me from a full day of learning. I want to write. I sit with my notebook ready to write. Then I fall asleep.
To write in my best state of flow I need to be well rested. I need time in a quiet space just to be quiet before I am able to fill the space with words. Sometimes it looks like falling asleep. When I wake up, still in that dreamy space, the words will rise from the stillness deep within me. Transitions are important. When I allow time to transition from a busy day I can create space for writing.
I’ve learned that this transition needs to be a time for nothing. No electronics. No new adventures. I can walk a familiar route. I can sit in my favourite chair. My goal is to decrease the stimulus around me so I can clearly hear the voice within me. Once I enter into the stillness then I am ready to create.
The goal this week is to pay attention to transitions. How are you moving from your everyday routines to your creative work? What do you need to make this transition go smoothly? How long does it take?
I continue to explore these questions in the video below.
How do you find solitude?
A Black Tar Invitation
By Jessica Outram
black tar suffocates skin
head to toe slow
eye to stomach
when I try to move
your request strikes
travelling smoke signals
heavy with rotting time
because I want to please you
make you like me
find love outside
this burning tar
built up from ignoring
the call of stillness and
it’s not your fault
I know shame teases
like a schoolyard bully
lures me to fall
and all because I’d rather
stay home alone with books
and pens than accept
Let’s Create: (Focus on Solitude)
Select one of the experiences listed here to do today. Then, copy and paste the others onto your calendar to do on other days in two and three months from now.
Reflect on what it feels like when you are in the act of writing. Try to recall the sensations of all the senses.
Schedule a weekend just for you. Unplug from social media, email, and the phone. Write and wander, repeat.
Imagine you’re given a fully stocked cabin in the woods for seven days. It’s just you in the woods by a lake…write.
Write about a place where you feel peace and connected to your centre.
Use Solitude and Self-Awareness to Go Deeper Into Character…
You may have noticed that each lesson includes some work on self-development and then some work on craft. This week we continue our work with character.
Transport your character to another time and place, asking how she would react when faced with a major ethical dilemma. By using Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development as a lens reflect on whether her morality will shift in your book. Kohlberg shows how moral development can be organized in six stages, from someone who makes choices to avoid punishment (like Homer Simpson) to someone who makes choices based on what s/he feels is right (like Atticus Finch.) Does your protagonist make choices based on what she gets in return? Does she have an understanding of the greater good? How do the events in the story reveal and/or test her morality?
Consider the Stages of Moral Development in exploring these dilemmas:
For example. The first one is about an airline pilot. Imagine the airline pilot is in Stage 3 and very concerned with being good, with pleasing everyone. How does this impact the scene? Then imagine the pilot is at Stage 1 and very concerned with obedience and punishment. Does the pilot go against personal instincts to follow a command in this Stage?
Sometimes it’s helpful to think of the stages through the characters in the TV cartoon The Simpsons. How is Bart different from Lisa different from Marge? Can you see where they fit in these stages? What would it take for your character to move to a different stage?
I’ve found this is a fun way to look at character when I am writing.
- An airline pilot’s choice at 40,000 feet.
- When two of your friends are interested in the same person, what responsibility do you have to act?
- A young man weighs the importance of a steady pay-check against a healthy environment.
- An accountant goes too far in helping his company.
- A college professor must deal with his compassion for a cheater.
- A father of two must decide where to spend his time: home or work.
- When is furthering your organization’s mission the wrong thing to do?
- A teacher struggles with a good student’s poor behaviour.
- A coach must make a disciplinary decide before a championship game.
Click here for a video about Kohlberg’s theory. This may be helpful if this idea is still feeling abstract to you.
How can this information about the Stages influence character development in your work?
How does this information about moral development influence who you are and how you want to make decision in your life?