Monday, February 3, 2014

Best-Selling Author's Writing Advice


International Best-Selling author Cathleen O'Connor will teach a creative writing workshop through the Women's Writing Circle on Saturday, April 5 in Exton, Pennsylvania. This all-day workshop – Connect To The Creative Writer Within - brings inspiration, learning and a supportive group of writers together at the beginning of spring in the heart of the beautiful and historic Brandywine Valley 30 miles west of Philadelphia.

I asked Cathleen to write her thoughts about what inspired her own creative writing journey and any advice she might offer writers. Please welcome Cathleen to the Circle. ~ Susan

As a writer and most likely a rabid reader, you probably know that Twilight author and Mormon housewife Stephenie Meyer began her best-selling saga awakening from a dream filled with characters so real and compelling that she could not put the dream aside. My latest book, High Heels on the Hamster Wheel, began as a dream. I awoke one morning several years ago with a story about hamsters, corporations, women and boundaries flowing through my dreaming mind. I could have ignored it but I didn’t. Instead I got up and began writing and the more I wrote the more the details of the dream appeared and the fable took shape. 

With my own writing, I have learned that if I am experiencing a dearth of ideas I have only to ask for inspiration in my sleep and blocks disappear upon waking. I believe that one of the keys to creativity is simple curiosity – the more curious you are about something the more you send that questing energy out into the universe seeking an answer. And I am always curious about how to keep inspiration flowing.

The original meaning of inspiration comes from Greek mythology. 
The Greeks believed that all creativity came from the gods and goddesses and that mortal beings received the spirit of the heavens and created some form of what had been revealed. The Greek gods and goddesses were the creative muses to philosophers, painters, sculptors, musicians and writers of the time. The etymology of the word itself means to “breathe in spirit,” and I do experience inspiration often as if a breath has suddenly moved through me and out onto the page.

What I have found is that my writing takes whatever form is needed at the time. When I first started writing I was six years old and created a family newspaper, complete with drawings, the latest headlines and little snippets of the latest news. I very carefully outlined sections, drew cartoons and folded my creation into what I thought was a good newspaper format. It was only four pages but filled with everything I thought would be of interest to my readers. 

By the time I was in college I was committed to journaling and began writing short stories, winning first place in my junior year for a short story based on ideas that captivated me while reading Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. And that is where my creative writing story ends for a few decades – or does it?

Maybe, like me, you spent a good part of your life in the working world and felt your creative impulse was only honored when you could get away for a retreat or a writing class to keep the fire within lit. Life has a way of moving us where it needs to go. For me that meant a long corporate career during which I spent a good part of my time in airports and hotels overseas. 

While my writing over those years consisted mainly of business correspondence, I found that inspiration was still there; tugging at the edges of my mind and encouraging me to be as creative as possible even when the subject was as dry as toast. Writing, all writing, is self-revelatory. 

You may think that memoir writing or journaling is the most revealing but there is also something about storytelling that exposes the essence of your hopes, dreams and how you see life. The nuances of who you are come to life in the traits of the characters you create. So we see both shadow and light upon the page – the parts of you that you show to the world and the parts that you keep hidden.

There is a well-cherished admonition to ‘write what you know.’ But creative writing asks you to write not from that place of experience but from the land of inspiration and imagination. Creative writing takes you beyond what you think you ‘know’ to a realm where all that is known and unknown co-exist. In that place you step into the flow of inspiration in a way that pulls from all your senses so you can bring to life something ‘new.’ 

What I have found is that our well of inspiration and creativity never truly dries up. It is blocked only by our own beliefs about what is possible. Creative writing asks you to play again with the child within. By inviting in that child you slide the cover off the well and let the water flow freely. By letting go of adult expectations, doubts and self-perceptions you shift into a much more receptive state, one that facilitates writing that is both inspired and uniquely yours. 

Creative writing opens you to flashes of genius, moments of inspiration and visits from creative muses. Writers often talk about feeling as if they are channeling information when they sit down to write, so easily does the information flow. Staying in that flow is a matter of practice and memory – it is a repeatable experience whether you are writing a memoir, a non-fiction article or the next block-buster mystery novel. Opening to inspiration through the muses of memory, song and practice is an opening to your deepest self – an all wise, trusting and courageous part of self, standing at the ready to bring your words to life.

Workshop details, what to expect and how you can register.

Cathleen O’Connor, PhD is a metaphysician, best-selling author, speaker and intuitive coach who loves to empower women through boundaries and balance. She is the author of several books including her 2014 Amazon International Best-Seller in the Self-Help and Self-Esteem category, High Heels on the Hamster Wheel (Balboa Press, 2013). She is also the author of The Everything Law of Attraction Dream Dictionary (Adams Media, 2010), and co-author of the 2011 best-seller Embracing Your Authentic Self (Inspired Living Publishing). Cathleen has been quoted in the Huffington Post and featured as an expert work-life balance source in various publications. In addition to her own business Cathleen is co-founder with Omega Institute Healer, Elizabeth Harper, of Spiritual Living (www.spiritualliving.com), an online spiritual community offering programs and off-site retreats for those on the spiritual path. Cathleen, known as “The Balance Whisperer,” believes in the power of the mind and heart to co-create miracles in all areas of life. Visit Cathleen’s website: www.cathleenoconnor.com

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