Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Katherine Ramsland

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.


I met Katherine Ramsland earlier this year at the 2012 Write Stuff Conference in Allentown, PA. We were sitting next to one another, signing books. Me, Thirsty. Her Snap! Seizing Your Aha! Moments. She’s cool, smart, and intense, and as soon as I started talking to her, I realized she had something important to say about writerhead.

Go on. Keep reading. You’ll see what I mean.

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

In my office stands a large wraparound desk, an iMac with printer, and an unmatched assemblage of bookshelves full of accounts of murder and mayhem. On the floor are piles of papers that will turn into projects, generally 5 or 6. This is my daily focus. I’m a firm believer in body memories, so I set up my office to become habit-forming. Everything is in place for writerhead-complementing activity.

I start at the same time each day, with coffee. My body has learned the drill, so it’s primed for flen—a combination of Zen and flow. I become one with my subject and method, a practice that now regularly leads to an altered state.

Flow is about our best functioning: We find our niche and do it so well that we feel fully satisfied and successful. The work we do during states of flow feels like quality work and often it’s our best. I once wrote a book, Bliss: Writing to Find Your True Self, in which I figured out how to set up the conditions that maximized this state. The key: body memories.

This work led directly into my recent book—Snap!—which describes the relationship between writerhead and the creative spark. A relaxed mind (via flen) can wander into uncharted territory. It searches beyond the left brain’s known databases into the right brain’s hidden resources. Since you’re not actively calculating, it might feel as if you’re no longer working, but the brain in flen is actually working very hard in ways you can’t anticipate. That’s why the Eureka moment that occurs during writing is such a delightful surprise. For me, the ultimate state of writerhead was nicely described by Francis Crick when he flashed on the structure of DNA:

“It is not easy to convey, unless one has experienced it, the dramatic feeling of sudden enlightenment that floods the mind when the right idea finally clicks into place. One immediately sees how many previously puzzling facts are neatly explained by the new hypothesis. One could kick oneself for not having the idea earlier, it now seems so obvious.”

You can make this happen on a regular basis. This is what writerhead is to me.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

During a freak October snowstorm, the electricity went off for three days. This was a significant interruption, because I had several deadlines. I ran through the five stages of grief: denial (“This isn’t happening.”); anger (“Why me? It’s not fair!”); bargaining (“If you’ll just turn on the computer, I’ll give up M&Ms for a year.”); depression (“I guess the world really IS going to end in 2012…or sooner.”), and acceptance (“The iPad still lights up, so I’ll just read for a while.”) In this final state, I learned gratitude and awareness of things I take for granted.

Actually, I do advocate interrupting your work before the point of closure, because it helps to propel you back to it and to resist inertia when you sit down to write the next time. You can pick up where you left off, and that state of writerhead bridges the two writing sessions. Any interruption that unclenches the brain can pop out an unexpected insight, and it’s better to embrace it than to get annoyed.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

For me, writerhead is like going into a dolmen—a fairy fort—to let supernatural creatures take me underground for however long they think is necessary and return me later, now full of magic. The picture of me is in such a dolmen, waiting. There’s no guarantee they’ll take you, or that they’ll bring you back, but that’s the risk of magic.

BIO:  Katherine Ramsland writes mostly nonfiction, although she has also published several short stories and two novels. She holds master’s degrees in forensic and clinical psychology, a master’s in criminal justice, and a Ph.D. in philosophy. She teaches forensic psychology and criminal justice at DeSales University in Pennsylvania and writes a regular blog for Psychology Today. She has published more than 1,000 articles and forty books, including The Ivy League Killer, The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, The CSI Effect, The Devil’s Dozen, Inside the Minds of Serial Killers, The Human Predator: A Historical Chronology of Serial Murder and Forensic Investigation, and The Mind of a Murderer: Privileged Access to the Demons that Drive Extreme Violence. She has consulted for CSI and Bones, and has participated on numerous documentaries for CBS, ABC, A&E, ID, E!, WE, and Court TV. Dr. Ramsland presents workshops to writers, as well as to law enforcement, psychologists, judges, and attorneys. She speaks on subjects ranging from forensics to serial killers to creativity. Her latest book is Snap! Seizing Your Aha! Moments.

If you’d like to connect with Katherine, you can visit her website, give her a thumbs up on her Facebook page, greet her on Twitter, link via LinkedIn. Also be sure to check out her blog—Shadow Boxing—at the Psychology Today website.

Mojo Monday: Edward Harran’s TedxBrisbane Talk About Imagination

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


Granted, these TEDx talks take a time commitment, but this one in which Ed Harran talks about his “creative, spiritual labor”? Worth it.

38Write: The Top 10 Reasons You Should Take This Writing Workshop

38Write—my new global writing initiative—is a series of online writing adventure workshops for place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world. Each writing adventure focuses on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life (for example, writing kick-butt descriptions), and during each 38-hour adventure, you’ll be connecting with me and 38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag. It’s new. It’s different. It’s mad fun! (For more info, click here. To sign up, click here.)


 The Top 10 Reasons YOU Should Take This Writing Adventure Workshop

  1. You will become a stronger writer.
  2. You will be inspired and invigorated.
  3. You will find new stories to tell, whether you’re writing fiction or essays or poetry or memoir or ad copy.
  4. Storytelling connects cultures, bridges gaps, and is a common language.
  5. 38 hours is a short & sweet time commitment that fits into all lives/schedules. You—anyone and everyone—can do this.
  6. You’ve got me at the helm—an author with an MFA degree & 17 years of teaching experience. (More on me here.)
  7. You’ve got crazy me at the helm. Who knows what I’ll ask you to do! Mwah ha ha!
  8. You’ll be connecting and communicating with writers all around the world who share your passion for place & culture, no matter where you live or how far you venture from your home base.
  9. You’ll see things from a new perspective.
  10. It’s going to be mad fun!

Ready to sign up? Great. Just click on over to the Classes page.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Cher Fischer

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.


About Cher Fischer’s debut novel Falling Into Green, the Huffington Post says, “[Falling Into Green] is an eco-mystery set at a fast pace, punched through with staccato sentences, twisting plot, shifting landscape, and a mighty heroine for the 21st century.”

Now listen to what author Cher Fischer has to say about her writerhead.

Remember…no talking! And pay close attention. There just may be a quiz at the end.

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

Writerhead is the “river” for me. I see it as a river. I always have the choice to jump in, or not. When I first started visualizing a river, it used to scare me a bit. I’d see myself stand next to the clear, rushing water, then tentatively stick a toe in, knowing that if I actually took the plunge and jumped, something in my life would change, because the river would carry me away to who knows where? So I’d hesitate. And in that moment of hesitation, the river itself would be gone. I actually hesitated for years, while still trying to write. But the text that I wrote would be stilted, jumbled, forced—no flow. No river current. Needless to say, my first work(s) were not good. I was rejected more than a few times, because the river that needs to carry both the writer and the reader’s imagination away—just wasn’t there. I distinctly remember when I finally allowed myself to jump into the river. It was in grad school for psychology, writing my master’s thesis on a subject very close to me—the peaceful behaviors of the bonobo chimpanzee—and I wanted the thesis to really resonate on a visceral level for people because the bonobo is on the verge of extinction, so I had to let my fear go and jump into that river! I walked up to the rushing water, threw myself in, and let my mind run with the waves and ripple over rocks and lay smooth in placid pools. I was told later that my thesis was able to carry a few other minds forth with the thought of protecting the bonobo. So that was my first experience of writerhead: the powerful current in the river. Now, I enjoy riding the waves, jump in every chance I get, which could be an apt lead-in for the next question…

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

Sometimes, my husband thinks I’m drowning in the river. Not literally, of course—but definitely figuratively. He casts out lifelines to me: a sandwich, coffee, or a question about a bill. I say, “Can’t the bill wait until later?” He’ll smile, knowing I’m still alive, swimmingly so. My two dogs, however, aren’t concerned for my safety; they’re simply annoyed that I’m writing at all since they feel if I’m out of bed, I should be walking them—even if I’ve just taken them for a four-mile hike! They make sure to create a big doggie show right next to my writing chair, they wrestle and roll, their athletic tumbles shaking the house, and I’m convinced that if they could, they would holler, “We want attention!” I figure that’s also what my husband wants, especially when he queries about the bill. My son, on the other hand, who’s nine and has the right to clamor for attention, likes to write himself, so while I write, he writes, lost in his own writerhead. One day, I’ll ask him what writerhead means to him. But for now, I don’t interfere with the process.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

For me, writerhead is like being a salmon on a salmon run except I never feel as if I’m swimming upstream.

BIO:  Cher Fischer is an ecopsychologist who received her doctorate in clinical psychology in 2004. She was a professor of psychology at Ryokan College in Los Angeles and has worked with at-risk families and children as well as practiced health psychology in several hospitals.

She is the author, with Heather Waite, of Moving from Fear to Courage: Transcendent Moments of Change in the Lives of Women (Wildcat Canyon Press, 2001), which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Born near a Superfund site in Spokane, Washington, and raised amid the lush nature of Minnesota, Fischer has long been involved in environmental issues and is passionate about the green movement in the United States. She is currently the head of the Green Team at her son’s elementary school, which is implementing sustainable strategies in the classrooms and throughout the campus. Falling Into Green is her first novel.

To learn more, visit Cher at her website or give her a wave on Facebook.

 

Mojo Monday: Give Me Air

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


You may have noticed the new Give Me Air badge there in the right-hand column of this site. See it? Yep, over there.

Whoop! Whoop!

I’m proud and excited to be part of Jennifer Karin‘s brilliant new concept Give Me Air. As Jennifer says, “The new site provides a refreshing blast of creativity from around the Web to fuel your brain and fill your soul.”

In essence, Give Me Air is a hub for some of the best, most timely reading material on the web. There are six categories that get updated a few times a week: Literature (for which I am the barista!), Humor, Music, Photography, Inspiration, and Art.

It’s brilliant. Instead of clicking around for half an hour, trying to find good stuff to read, all you have to do is visit Give Me Air.

So stop by. Make us a part of your daily routine, perhaps while you’re sipping your favorite cuppa.

___

Give Me Air was designed by Jesse Hayes, Hayes Design Studio.

Image: Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

38Write: Why, Why, Why?

As you know, registration for the first 38Write writing adventure workshop is open! (If you don’t know, hop on over there and check it out. Sign up. Get your friends to sign up.)

This week, someone asked me, “Why? Why this kind of place/culture-centered workshop? Why do you so love working with place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world?”

To answer, I sent them to a short piece I wrote a few years ago for the Poets & Writers magazine “Writers Recommend” series. I think this explains the “why” pretty well. Read it here.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.


Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers has been called many things: “Lucid and lovely” by The Wall Street Journal; “A fascinating debut…” by O Magazine; and “A moving and beautifully written portrayal of the frailty—and the hardness—of the human spirit” by The Daily Telegraph (UK).

Oh, so right!

Please give a hearty welcome to Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

I wrote The Language of Flowers in my office in Sacramento, California. Everyday at noon, my babies asleep in their cribs, I would tiptoe into my office, close the glass door, sit in my burgundy velvet chair, and flip open my laptop. Even now I miss the feeling of double-clicking the word document on my desktop, the rush of peace I felt as the title page opened before my eyes. I’d scroll down to the sentence where I left off—I tried to always stop in the middle of a sentence so that I wouldn’t have trouble remembering where I was—and start writing. When I am at my best, the feeling I get when I am writing most closely resembles reading. The story exists, and I am just moving forward into the story learning more and more with each passing moment.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

As a parent to a newborn, a one-year-old, and two teenagers, my entire life was interruptions. I became good at pausing my thoughts and taking them back up in another, quieter moment. I will say though, that occasionally my daughter would wake too early or in the middle of some big idea, and I would pull her into my lap and say: “Want to hear a story about Victoria?” I would read aloud to her the words I typed furiously out onto the page, trying desperately to finish a thought before she lost attention and demanded more of me.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

For me, writerhead is like high mountain air, making you feel slightly dizzy and almost painfully alive.

BIO: To write The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh found inspiration in her own experiences as a foster mother. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford University, Vanessa taught art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is her first novel.

To tell Vanessa how much you love her book or to ask her a question about her writerhead, follow her Twitter (@VDiffenbaugh), visit her on Facebook, and, of course, check out her website.

Mojo Monday: Speaking at the Pennwriters Conference

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


On Thursday, I’m flying out to speak at the Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster, PA.  I’m very excited to be working with writers live and in person in another Writerhead workshop, and speaking, once again, about writers and social media.

I’m also psyched to reconnect with many of my writer friends that I haven’t seen in a good while. Conferences are such a great place to get your mojo on.

Whoop! Whoop!

Hope to connect with some of you there!

___

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy Mother’s Day

I’m a lucky mom. I’ve got an amazing daughter who changes my life in wonderful ways every day. I became her mom via adoption nearly four years when she was just a baby, and though I don’t know Tully’s birth mother, each year I proudly share this day with her. After all, she created and gave birth to this amazing kiddo.

On this day—and many other days—I talk to Tully’s birth mother in my head and heart. I tell her what an incredible, loving, giving, smart, creative, heart-centered, silly-as-heck kiddo Tully is. I tell her how much love Tully gives and receives in her life with us. I acknowledge the sacred connection between us.

So today, I wish all moms a happy Mother’s Day.

If you’d like to read more about my journey as Tully’s mom, here we are in 2008 on our very first day together, and here we in 2009 on my first Mother’s Day.

xo

Introducing…The 38Write Writing Adventure Workshop Series for Place-Passionate Writers

Writers, last week I introduced 38Write, my new global writing initiative. And today…

(drum roll, please…)

…I’m wildly excited to unveil the 38Write writing adventure series for place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world.

So yes, yes, welcome to 38Write…a series of 38-hour writing adventures, each of which will focus on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life.

The first in the series—38Write | Description—will take place on Saturday, June 2, 2012. You’ll have 38 hours to complete the assignments and send me your strongest piece of writing for feedback. (To sign up and read all the juicy details, visit the CLASSES page of this site.)

38Write is not your run-of-the-mill writing workshop. It’s a writing adventure designed specifically for place-passionate, culturally curious writers that will get you out of your house—no matter where you live—and into your environs.

 

The Unique Aspects of 38Write

  • Each writing adventure is 38 hours long. It’s a manageable amount of time that fits into anyone’s busy schedule. (Good gracious, no, you will not be writing or adventuring for 38 hours straight. I’m ambitious for you, but not crazy. You will need approximately 2-4 hours to work during the 38-hour period…give or take an hour.)
  • Each writing adventure will focus on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life. You will not be writing an entire essay or short story. Some adventures will focus on a skill, like writing kick-butt descriptions; others might get you to look at what inspires you or how you move from idea to writing.
  • During each 38-hour period, you’ll be able to connect with me and 38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag. (How cool is that?!)
  • You will get feedback from me. (For more info about me, click here.)
  • Terrific for folks writing fiction, essays, or memoir.
  • Beginners and experienced writers are welcome.
  • It’s affordable. A single 38Write writing adventure costs only $38 (U.S.).

 

Why Am I Creating 38Write?

While living, writing, and teaching writing in Shanghai, I learned (and/or relearned) a number of things:

    1. Each of us has a heck of a lot to learn from folks in other countries (and not usually the things we think we need to learn).
    2. Story is an international conversation that can help us better understand one another.
    3. By helping writers from all over the world to improve their craft, I can play a wee role in facilitating this global conversation.
    4. Writing is recursive. You must practice. (And if I do say so myself, I’m pretty darn good at getting writers to practice.)

 

Is 38Write For You?

38Write adventures are designed for all place-passionate writers, including expats and repats, globetrotters, armchair travelers, nomads, cultural spelunkers, deeply rooted souls, mapmakers and mapbreakers, wanderers and wayfarers, voyagers, and all writers interested in exploring and writing about their environs.

So, yup, if you’re asking, 38Write is probably for you.

 

To learn more and sign up for 38Write | Description, visit CLASSES.

_____

Camels: Photokanok / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Beach: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jodhpur: Image: think4photop / FreeDigitalPhotos.net