How writing a novel made me a better person

A lot of personal growth gurus tell you that when you’re trying to be something you tell yourself you are that something to help you achieve your goals. Mind over matter. Fake it until you make it.  Honestly, that’s how I finished a manuscript for a book.

The path to writing a novel has been an interesting one. I have always been a storyteller: I had friends put on versions of fairy tales in my backyard when we were little; I studied theater in high school and college; I was on the school newspapers as a writer, and loved to take creative writing classes. I could give you many more facts to support that I like to tell stories—but I think you get it. The thing is, I just am a storyteller. It has always come naturally, and I love it. I also don’t understand it, can’t explain it, and am not good at owning it. I’m an actress—a damn good one—but its taken me years to be able to say that with conviction. Part of it is that I’ve not had thousands of glittering fans following me, and praise from teachers and critics. Part of it is that my storytelling talent is just as much a part of me as my arm, or my teeth, or my brain—its just there, I have cultivated and kept up its strength, but I don’t know that its really mine to take credit for because I’ve always had it. A creative outlet also helps my survival, so in a way, its like me taking a compliment on breathing….thank you…?

Anyway… the novel I’ve written started as an outlet, a way to breathe. I had a relationship that was very jagged in the way it ended. I needed to figure out a way to deal with my feelings of it, so I started journaling. After a few weeks of hearing myself only complain both on paper and to anyone who would listen, I got so tired of it. My journaling morphed into my writing letters, which morphed into a fictional version of myself writing letters to someone else at the end of a relationship—I felt very Chekovian at the time. From these letters a plot started to emerge about how this woman felt so deeply, and loved this man so deeply, but his depression got in the way. I just felt compelled to keep writing. I wrote on the subway every time I could get the chance. I would write until I fell asleep each night. I would wake up and write while I was making coffee and a few times while brushing my teeth.  Elizabeth Gilbert talks on her website about her thoughts on writing.  I’ve also heard her quoted to say that she sits down and just slogs though the work. I just wrote whenever the muse called, or whenever I could. Liz says on her page: “Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest.”  I just kept writing.

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At this point it was all hand written, and I decided to sit down in front of the computer and see what happened… I had over 80 typed pages. WOW. By this time the muse had a hold of me, and I just kept writing. I started telling people that I was writing—and it was interesting, there were two reactions: 1) people were excited and couldn’t wait to read it, 2) people were inspired by me and were either going to start their own, or dust off the one they had already started and were going to work on their own.

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The more I told people, the more it became real. The more I became a writer. I sent pages off to friends who read it and couldn’t wait for more. I even started a Facebook page to keep myself honest and update everyone on the progress—because it became my main talking point.


The more I told people, the more it became real.


Life intervened and distracted me—truth be told, I don’t know if I was ready to complete a story then, I was sad, and the story needed a happy beginning. At some point LL and I sat down and decided to launch LiveClareLesley, first as a book, and then as a blog—and that took my writing down a different lane. I moved three times, and my storyteller was quelled by all of the theater I was performing. Then in June of this year I had a brainwave for a play. I told myself that I wasn’t allowed to start on the play until I had finished the novel.

And I did. I sat down, I slogged through it, and now I have a manuscript. I have done the research on self-publishing. I have a Facebook and a following. And now, I’m trying to get this sucker published with a GoFundMe campaign and donate if you can. Please go check it out and I will adore you if you like the book on Facebook, and post my GoFundMe on your own social media!

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But wait, there’s more! Ok, this blog wasn’t a commercial to help fund my book. Its about owning the talents you have and letting them come to the surface. I did not start out to write a novel, but I arrived at that. I’m proud of myself for continually sitting down to work on it and owning it. Here are some of my suggestions on how to get started:

  • If you feel the need to be creative and don’t know where to start, make a “bucket list” and a separate list of things that inspire you. What of those make you want to take action? Start to follow your inspirations and passions.
  • It sounds silly, but literally take a different route home—I always am happy when I do, because I see something or someone that I wouldn’t have normally.
  • Read. Nothing inspires me more than words and other stories.
  • Go see a play/movie/opera/concert. Get out and get some culture.
  • Just try something. If you feel inspired to write, just start writing. If you want to learn something new, sign up for a class. If you want to dance, go find a place to dance!
  • Remember the beginning is always slow, but you have to just slog through it. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you’ll get there eventually.
  • Tell your friends and family. Maybe they’ll want to join. Maybe they’ll support, or even better they’ll look at you like you’re crazy and ask why you’re doing it—which will reaffirm your desire to do it! They’ll also keep you honest, and remind you to keep doing it by asking you about your activity!

Maybe you’ll succeed. Maybe you’ll fail. No matter what you’ll try something new and you’ll learn something. I’ve been a reader for as long as I could read. I appreciate books so much more now that I’ve been through the process of writing one. No matter what happens, I’m a better person for having started writing this novel. I’m a better storyteller.

Go visit my Facebook page for The Time Turner,  and visit, donate, and repost my GoFund Me!

–Clare

If you have a comment scroll down past the tags below (or up, if you’re on the main page), or email us at liveclarelesley@gmail.com   We LOVE your feedback!!   Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for DAILY inspiration!

Photo Credits:  Palo (writing on page), Go to the Eye (typewriter keys), Twentyfour Students (keyboard keys).  All photos are from Flikr Creative Commons.

Competitive Progress

I’m writing a novel. It started out as a journal response to a break up, and then blossomed into a much bigger entity. Its been a slower process, because, it takes a LOT of time to write a book, especially when your life isn’t focused around it. It takes a lot of time to do anything if your life isn’t focused around that thing; raising a child, advancing your career, becoming better at sports, getting a performing career regulated. I was also in final rehearsals for a show I was about to open. One of the gentlemen in my cast was on his computer a lot while not on stage. At one point, I teased him about taking notes on other actors in the show, and he responded that he was working on a novel. I asked questions and was an appropriate level of excited for him and interested, outwardly. Inside, the competitive streak awakened. I mentioned that I was working on a novel as well, and shared a little about mine. We have a similar amount of page numbers, so I felt around his same level. But something was ignited in me. I felt competitive, and something inside me seemed to take a starting position, ready for the starter pistol to fire. Although his book is a completely different subject than mine, and really outside of rehearsals, I don’t know his life… As in, his book could be a culmination of writing from the last 10 years, or it could be that he has lots of free time that he can spend on it, or maybe he’s just much more regimented than I am. Also this is his second book—whereas this is my first large work. Instead of coming home from a long day of rehearsal and just relaxing, I opened up my computer and tried to dive into writing again. Why did I do this? Simply because I saw someone else writing, my brain thought: oh, he’s getting ahead of me in the Race of Life—I have to hurry up and catch up with him! Which, frankly, is a really dumb thought. However, I have it all the time. All. The. Time. Why? Competitive progress.

Whenever I set out to do something, and I see someone else doing something similar it ignites the passion and competition in me. Sometimes this is a good thing, but sometimes, I sacrifice things so I can “keep up with the Joneses.” I didn’t sacrifice much but sleep last night, but sometimes that is enough of a sacrifice. I have this crazy notion that I need to finish because a colleague might get ahead of me—this is a completely ridiculous thought. So, the questions arise: Why am I letting someone else’s actions spur me on? Why do I feel the need to be competitive? And why does it matter if it inspires me to move forward with my goals and ambitions?

Writing happens for me in spurts, any project that takes time, I often do in segments. In between writing the above and now, I read an article about jealousy. I started questioning myself, was I jealous of my colleague who was making sure he devoted time to writing? In a way, yes, but I turned it into a positive. It spurred me on to do my own work. Jealousy is only jealousy if it turns you against another person and in a way against yourself. If you’re starting to feel a heightened emotion and feel badly towards yourself because of something someone else is doing: STOP. Make that into something positive instead of just sitting and bemoaning your life. Take that energy and allow it to be positive, and creative instead of negative and a vacuum. Do as I did—I saw someone else doing something that was similar to a project I was working on. I felt shame and a bit jealous that he had thought to work on his project when he had spare time. He wasn’t flashing it around, he was just being present in two genres of his life at the same time: rehearsing and writing.

First, take the ridiculous jealous feelings out of your brain, set them aside, and tell yourself that you don’t want to be negative about whatever achievements the other person is making. You just don’t. Refuse! You’re feeling this because you wish you had more time to work on something, or were more creative, or wish you had thought of it. Whenever you start feeling jealous, tell yourself it’s a natural need to create something. Start brainstorming.

Brainstorming and creativity can happen at anytime. You just need to give yourself the permission, and the outlet. Put down the game on your phone and give time to yourself instead. Once you start sneaking in the time to create, you’ll start making time for yourself to create. I now sit down every morning for an hour and work on creative things—whether it’s writing or working on my website or working on something creative or even just doodling or making lists on the creative ideas I have; anything that gets the ideas out of me and into the world.

Also remember, my dear snowflakes, that you are totally different than any other person. Your timeline is not the same as mine, and mine is not the same as Lesley’s or my cast mate’s, or the guy sitting across from me on the subway, or any of your “friends” on social media. I don’t have a baby, a 401K, or a mortgage like many of the people I went to school with. However, I have a blog, two almost-books, a burgeoning theatrical career, and an apartment in Manhattan. I will get to where I need to go, when I’m meant to get there. Things will show up in my life when they are meant to. My stories will get written when they do.

That brings me back to the blog. Last week I was looking at our blog stats. A few months ago we hit a record number of views in a day for us. It was so great. Lesley and I are asked for our opinions and advice all the time and we wanted to reach a greater number of people, so we started this blog/book/movement. I’ll admit that when we started, it was a lovely outlet to express my thoughts. When the momentous day happened ( it was our first triple digit day, so we got excited). Then, we seemed to dwindle back down to double digits. Like any other high in life, the fall out is hard. Especially when your hope and expectations are up. At times like these, the fall outs, you can do several things. The most popular being: wallowing in self pity, and giving up. However, if Edison gave up, we wouldn’t have the light bulb… or at least the version of the light bulb he created and as soon as he created it. Someone else would have done that, but not shared with the world some other gift… anyway… The point I’m getting around to is this: if I didn’t fail in life as much as I have, I wouldn’t have anything to share with you. I wouldn’t try as hard to write a book, tell stories, be an actress. Failing, or roadblocks that diverted my path from the ones I thought I wanted to take brought me to exactly where I’m supposed to be. Yes, it all might not be momentous realizations and creations, but instead encouragements and redirections. The blog not getting as many views spurred Lesley and me into figuring out other directions (and really at three months old, we’re doing GREAT at LiveClareLesley—I just want it to be 1000 views a day. Now!) If I hadn’t had the terrible relationship, I wouldn’t have started a novel. If I hadn’t seen my acting colleague working on his book, I wouldn’t have been spurred to write both my novel and our blog. We all have things to share. We all have gifts to give. We all want to make a mark on the world.

Stop worrying about the mark. Like all good acting/art teachers will tell you: be true to your art. Go out and create, be, live, do. Stop worrying about what others are doing. You’ll make whatever you want, and make it your own, on your own timeline.

Clare

(oh and if you’re interested, you can follow the novel’s progress at The Time Turner)