5 Ways to Get Inspired to Write

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Aspiring writers love to ask me where my inspiration comes from. It’s easily in the top three questions I get asked, when I’m asked about writing. The top three questions I get asked when I’m not being asked about writing tend to be, “Why are you late?” “Who the f*&k do you think you are?” and “What’s that smell?” Ah, but that’s another story for another day, and perchance for another blog altogether.

You’re welcome.

So, where were we? Right. Inspiration! That elusive spark that Thomas Edison famously accused of accounting for only 1 percent of any work of genius, the other 99 percent being ascribed to sweat which, come to think of it, makes me feel a bit better about the last question listed above. Inspiration! The spiritual, emotional and intellectual rocket fuel that propels all creative people to action — but where does it come from? What, exactly, inspires a writer to write?

I think the answer is this: Each writer finds inspiration in her or his own way. Okay, my bad. That was actually the chickenshit answer. The airy-fairy touch-feely hokey-pokey mambi-pambi answer. I don’t think any of you have come to this blog looking for cloying cliches or boring bromides — or, for that matter, annoying alliteration and pugilistic pedantic pedagogery. No, no, no. You’ve come here for advice. Real, solid, I-can-use-that-shit advise. So here it is.

1. Read something great. In the same way that leafing through a fitness magazine will either inspire you to give up and grab a bag of chips, or to lace up your sneakers and go a-jogging (or, in my case, a-flopping) a great piece of writing will inspire you to either delete Microsoft Word from your computer altogether, or to sit yourself down in a big old puddle of words and snuffle about in them, like a happy little pig.

For the record, “great” is subjective. Some people, for instance, think Ke$ha is great. I’ve seen them. They wear glitter like body lotion. They are allowed to think Ke$ha is great, and you are allowed to have your own opinions about what makes writing great. You are even allowed to disagree with important and musty people, like college writing teachers, about what makes a bunch of words all strung together in a certain way great to you. My opinion on the matter leads me again and again to gorge at the trough of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Dean Koontz. You are free to disagree, just as you are free to smear glitter in your armpits.

2. Listen to people talk. Language is a living, breathing, evolving creature that exists invisibly in the air all around us. It is musical, magical and melodious — and I can’t seem to stop littering alliteratively this morning, and for that I am truly sorry. At least I’m not wearing body glitter.

Anyhoo, it can be inspiring to just go somewhere and listen to people talk. A cafe, for instance. I suggest you not be part of the conversation yourself, because I want you to focus on how other people put ideas together and spill them out into the world. You don’t have to be creepy about it. Okay, that’s not true. You probably do have to be just a little bit creepy to listen in on other people’s conversations in a cafe. But that’s just part of being a writer. Just try not to get yourself arrested, and if you do get arrested, don’t blame me for your having a wish to be a creepy writer. We are a creepy lot, at least sometimes. We get inside people’s heads, and their hearts, and we pay attention to the cadences of their speech. We try to catch the slippery fish of people’s words in the furry nets of our intentions. Creepy!

Do this: Try transcribing scraps of overheard conversations, just to see how they look and feel when transferred to a page. This is going to help your dialogue a great deal, though I am assuming, perhaps unfairly, that your writing includes dialogue, which, if you are, say, writing a blog for NASA on rocket robotics, it might not. Apologies. If your writing doesn’t include people talking in it, this exercise can still be useful in helping you to experiment with and develop a unique and compelling voice in your writing.

 

3. Listen to music. I think of music and language as being inexorably linked. Language began as an auditory experience, when our grunting and gesticulating sprouted linguistic legs and slithered out of the sea of ooga booga and galloped onto the grassy plains of poetry.

Nothing gets me more focused and motivated, emotionally, for writing, than music. When I’m writing fiction, I even create playlists for each of my characters. I will also find a song or set of songs that define the emotional arc of a particular section of a story, and I will listen to this as I write, or at least before I write.

Plus: Music is powerful, and can move you to do great things. Have you heard about those studies that show people actually experience pain less when they are listening to music while suffering? Exactly. Er, not that I’m calling writing suffering…except that it can be, sometimes. Crank up the jams, yo.

4. Exercise. There are lots of reports from lots of people about how their best ideas come to them while working out, or while taking a shower. Science types tell us that this is because, contrary to the dumb jock stereotype, exercise makes you smarter. Increased blood flow to the brain during exercise helps that mass of gray matter to work better, and some studies even show that exercise helps us to grow bigger brains. I get a lot of my ideas when I combine music and exercise together, entering a sort of glassy-eyed trance state on the treadmill. This scares other people at the gym, but I don’t care because it makes for great writing. Priorities! Exercise will also help you to build stamina, which you will need if you hope to write a book or two.

5. Join a Writers’ Support Group. Nothing motivates us more than accountability. Knowing that you have to get together with a bunch of other writers every week or month will keep you on track. It will also be a great place to get feedback on your writing, unless, of course, you join a writing group full of sucky writers, in which case it will ruin your writing. So don’t do that. Join a writers’ support group full of good writers, if you can.

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Writing Tip – Starting Your Story Well

All good stories, whether they are fictional or non-fictional, must begin with your hero in an emotional place quite different from the spot where he or she will end up. This is true of novels, memoir, literary journalism and films, and most of these stories — at least the ones that don’t try narcissitically to impress you by jumping around disjointedly in time, making you figure out where the pieces go (yes, Tree of Life, I’m looking at YOU) — start with the hero experiencing his or her “life as usual,” and your audience parachuting down into the middle of it.

When I say “hero,” I mean your lead character, the person (or, sometimes, animal — or, even more rarely and spectacularly, something else) whose journey we are going to watch unfold. The word “hero” should not be taken literally, though in many cases your hero might, in fact, be precisely that, running into burning buildings to throw babies out and whatnot. Heroes, for literary and storytelling purposes, come in many forms, and their heroic journeys are as limitless as the imaginations of the people who write them. A hero could be Twilight’s Bella, the somewhat uninteresting and plain girl who falls in love with a twinkling vampire and must eventually give up everything she once was to be with him. A hero could also be literally a spoon, a dirty sock and a can of beans, as is the case in the perhaps too creative universe that exists in Tom Robbins’ Skinny Legs and All.

Now, today’s important writing tip: To make your story work, you must start it at the beginning, and the beginning MUST be before your hero even realizes she or he needs to take a journey at all.

This is often the part of storytelling that trips new writers up. A new writer, excited by the conflict and transformation that is to come for the hero, and eager for the hero to change because, hey, that’s the payoff, cannot help but to tell too much to the reader or viewer too soon. To write well, you must write dispassionately, meaning you must already be emotionally resolved YOURSELF with the story, so that there is no compelling personal reason for you to rush through any of it. If you are still getting an emotional thrill from the plot, it’s not time to write yet. Live the story yourself, in your mind, revel in the beauty of the journey, then forget all about it, and get down to the business of chronicling the trip moment by moment as it happens for your reader. Not for you.

What do I mean by this? Think about Harry Potter. We start the journey with Harry living as usual, underneath the stairs, tortured by his aunt and uncle and cousin, unaware that his life could or ought to be different, resigned to his fate. That Rowling takes the time and care to paint this untenable situation so well, whilst never revealing that her hero himself recognizes the need for something new, or indeed even an awareness in him that he deserves better, works like a charm to propel the reader or viewer onward into the story. We recognize that Harry’s life is awful before he does; we are rooting for it to change; we know more than our hero does about himself — and THAT, my friends, is the key. Take your time creating life as normal, but do not forget for an instant that you are undertaking a tricky balance, between allowing your reader or viewer to come to the conclusion on their own that change is necessary, and your hero’s inability as of yet to see it. You want your reader or viewer to almost scream at the page or screen — “Do something! Fix this! Before it’s too late for you!”

Imagine if the Harry Potter story began with Harry surly and hating his aunt and uncle, trashing their house, breaking their windows, smoking in the bathroom and talking to snakes. Not only would he be an unsympathetic and confusing character, we’d have no sense that we, his audience, were helping him along toward his transformation through our sheer force of will. You want your readers to understand your hero’s world completely, so completely that they will see the need for him or her to leave it behind before the hero does. The satisfaction, for those who read or watch a story unfolding, comes from the tension of uncertainty, relieved by the release of eventual resolution. To rush the beginning, to imbue your character too soon with too much insight about their situation, robs the reader or viewer of the cathartic release. Good storytelling is done by people who already know the story, and delight in letting their audience figure it out themselves.

* If you’ve enjoyed this writing tip, but need more specific advice or guidance with your writing, please send me an email, at alisa.valdes@gmail.com, with your contact information, so we can schedule a one-on-one writing coaching session! Make sure to sign up for my newsletter and to subscribe to this blog, for weekly writing tips in your inbox.

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Casting Notice for a New Reality Show

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My Larry David Moment by Alisa Valdes – The Pizza Thief in the Gold Prius

The kids wanted to jump off diving boards yesterday — Mayeila stepping gingerly from the low dive, Alexander cannonballing loudly from the high dive. Mike and I were up for a drive through the country, so we all headed South from Albuquerque, to the pool at Belen High School in Valencia County. A great afternoon was had by all, with my favorite part being the ease with which Michael can carry me around in the swimming pool, where I’m light as a feather.

Afterwards, people were hungry. So we ordered a couple of pizzas and some sweet tea from the Dion’s in Los Lunas, to pick up on our way home. Our plan was to have a car picnic somewhere by the river. We got to Dion’s, paid at the drive-through pickup window and, because we were a little early, went to the parking area designated for waiting for to-go orders. We parked next to a woman in gold Prius, also waiting for her food.

A few minutes later, the Prius drove away. Then the Dion’s employee came to our window with one pizza. He said it was our order. We said no, that we’d ordered — AND PAID FOR — two pizzas, with pepperoni, jalapenos and mushrooms, and a gallon of sweet tea.

“You did?” he asked, his face flushing red. We nodded. “Well, I just gave that order to the lady in the Prius. She said it was hers.” He looked down at the pizza box in his hands. “I guess this is hers. A pizza with pepperoni and half green chile. You want it?”

It was a Larry David moment. Woman in a Prius, with her environmentally-aware liberal bumper stickers, when confronted with an opportunity to get more than twice the food she paid for, and a gallon of tea, by simply lying…took it. And ran.

I know, intellectually, that there are rotten people in the world. But for some reason I am always just dumbfounded when they cross my path. I’m sure there was a slight chance she was merely confused, but c’mon. You didn’t order any drinks, but you’re going to take a gallon of tea as yours?

Amazing.

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The New Novel from Alisa Valdes is Now Out From VEE Books!

Find out why readers agree this is my best book yet!

Find out why readers agree this is my best book yet!

Coronado Prep student Maria Ochoa, 16, is near death after crashing her car on an isolated stretch of NM Highway 14 during a freak blizzard. When the only person who shows up to help her is a teen gangbanger named Demetrio Vigil, Maria fears she’s doomed, until the young man miraculously heals her nearly fatal wounds with nothing but the warmth radiating from his hands. Maria is grateful for the help, and seeks to thank Demetrio by returning to the tiny ghost town of Golden, New Mexico, where he said he lives, to find him and give him a gift. What she discovers about Demetrio along the way, however, not only defies logic and belief, but puts Maria’s very life in terrible danger.

A fast-paced, thrilling supernatural love story like none you’ve ever seen before. A great read for teens and parents alike. Find out why readers say THE TEMPTATION OF DEMETRIO VIGIL might be my best book yet! Just $2.99 for the e-book!

Click here to order the paperback!

Click here for Kindle!

Click here for all other e-readers!

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Business Lessons with Alisa Valdes — Believe in Abundance

abundance

I am very pleased and proud to announce that my production company, Valdes Entertainment Enterprises LLC, has secured its first major investor, an individual who will be putting between $50,000 and $100,000 of her own money toward our vision. Next week, Mike and I will travel to Washington D.C. to meet with several other potential high-level investors, and we have some motion in Las Vegas, Nevada from another high-profile investor. We are well on our way toward raising our entire $1.6 million budget to produce our first feature film, THE DIRTY GIRLS SOCIAL CLUB, based on my bestselling novel.

I have learned a lot about business as I’ve begun to shift from being just a writer to being a writer and businesswoman in charge of my own multi-platform entertainment production company, and I will be using this blog to share some of my business lessons along the way. Today, I want to share with you how important it has been for me to shift my belief system in order to find success in business.

I grew up without much money. My mother was a secretary and my father was a state university professor. We were lower middle class, I suppose, and never went hungry. We had enough to survive, and that was that. Both of my parents come from cultural backgrounds where humility, doing hard work for someone else, and enduring hardship are expected, and where asking for too much is seen as risky, dangerous and egotistical. I absorbed these lessons as I was growing up — namely that while, yes, there were rich people in the world, they would never be us. Wealth was something meant for others. In addition, because of the hard left politics of my upbringing, there was an added message that wealth creation was for “bad” people; a sort of snobbery against the rich.

What this meant was that I was walking around with an emotional belief system for most of my adult life that was rooted in scarcity and lack of financial self esteem. I truly believed, at a gut level, that I didn’t deserve more than I had, and that it was my moral duty to struggle, financially. I truly believed, as many Latinos unfortunately do, that it was somehow a character flaw if I wanted more money, that thinking I deserved financial abundance made me a bad person. This was an UNCONSCIOUS belief system deeply woven into the fabric of my sense of self, that SABOTAGED me at every turn. Not believing I deserved abundance created an invisible energy shield that literally kept financial success AWAY.

The moment I understood all of this, things began to change. I realized that in order for me to actually do my work at the highest levels possible, I would need capital — and that this was not only okay, but necessary for the empowering work I seek to do in our communities as well as in my own family’s life. The biggest shift happened when a member of my company’s advisory board, a successful financial attorney, said, quite clearly, that I needed to stop thinking of money as something that was hard to find or reluctant to connect with me. Capital, he told me, is everywhere. It’s not hard to find. It is always looking for new and exciting things to do. It would come to me, he assured me, the moment I decided I was ready for it.

This subtle shift in thinking, in emotion, has made all the difference in the world.

At a recent fundraiser for our film, a young screenwriter came up to me to ask for advice. I could see from her facial expression that even though she was passionate about her storytelling, she didn’t really believe she deserved financing. “I’m only trying to raise $500,000,” she said, worry creasing her forehead. “But I know, that’s a lot of money, and times are tough, and it’s going to be hard.”

In the past, I would have probably commiserated with her, put a hand to her shoulder and agreed. But no more. I looked her right in the eye and told her the truth. “Money is there. It is always there. Stop thinking it’s hard to find. Realize that it’s easy to get, once you’re ready for it. Make yourself ready.”

Her eyes lit up, and her shoulders lifted in surprise. She told me she had never thought of it that way. I understood. Few of us learn to think of money as being something we have control over, but the truth is, we do. The best first step any of us can make in business is a simple and subtle shift in how we think about money and its relationship to us. This is not something you can learn in business school; it is something you must understand with your HEART. Remember: What you believe it what you will manifest. If you believe money is abundant and looking for you, it will come – and you will be ready for it. If you believe money is something scarce intended only for other people, and difficult to secure, something that doesn’t really belong to you, that is also what will come.

Change your heart and mind, change your life. I truly believe this.

To become part of our first film, please visit our FUNDLY page to join us as we manifest a film that will help all of us manifest success!

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Jessica Alba in the Dirty Girls Social Club Movie?

The multitalented Jessica Alba has a new book out. Have you read it yet?

The multitalented Jessica Alba has a new book out. Have you read it yet?

First, can I just say I am in awe of Jessica Alba? Is there anything this woman can’t do? She’s gorgeous, fit, a wonderful actress, a new and seemingly excellent mother, and now, she’s an author, too! Just like me! Well, just like, um, about half of me. With white teeth.

Le sigh.

Jessica has been out and about lately, promoting her new book, THE HONEST LIFE, a diet, decor, fitness and wellness memoir that reminds us of how far we all have to go to be as perfect as mellow, happy, environmentally-conscious Jessica. The book is currently No. 1 on amazon for style and beauty. We haven’t read it yet, so we’re just going on the publisher’s description, but we are on our way out to buy it today and would love to hear what y’all think.

Seeing the news about Jessica promoting her book, seeing the pictures of her doing signings in bookstores, made me think she would make a great Lauren (the newspaper columnist) in the DIRTY GIRLS SOCIAL CLUB film that my new production company, VEE, is developing. I mean, doesn’t she look like a writer now?

Jessica signs her book at a bookstore in New York.

Jessica signs her book at a bookstore in New York.

Then again, the versatile Alba, who can dance and sing on top of every other damn thing, might make a crazy good Amber, the aspiring rock star in the film. Look. Isn’t she badass?

Jessica is so versatile. She can be sweet as a girl next door, or scary badass!

Jessica is so versatile. She can be sweet as a girl next door, or scary badass!

Of course, seeing Jess with her beautiful daughter, Honor Marie, makes me think she could be compelling as suburban “perfect” wife and mommy, Sara.

Jessia with her adorable daughter, Honor Marie.

Jessia with her adorable daughter, Honor Marie.

What do you guys think? Would you love to see Jessia in the movie? What role do you think she’d most ROCK?

Get involved in helping to make THE DIRTY GIRLS SOCIAL CLUB film a reality! Please visit our Fundly page today, to support us!

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