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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

What Keeps You Reading a Book?

As an author I think about this question a lot. I should hope all authors have this in mind when writing their books as readers are the writers most important ally. Books should not be written for the author, rather they should be created for their readers.

So what makes you want to pick up a book and start reading?

I suppose that question has a variety of answers, depending on your favourite genre of book. For a crime thriller its readers will want to the experience the suspense and excitement of finding out who has committed the most gruesome murders. For a comedy book its readers will want to laugh out loud all the way through. And for E.L. James's readers they are promised a certain amount of erotic desire.

Of course, you have plotlines and character development which play a crucial role in a book's readability. A book's setting may also draw in a certain amount of readers. For example a book set in Mexico may attract Mexicans or people with an interest in that particular country.

But for me as an avid chick lit reader, the character's emotional drive is always key.

I read a blog post recently about this subject and I have to say how much I agree with it:

Lawrence says you have to make an emotional connection with your readers no matter what fiction you are writing. And this statement is so true, especially with the chick lit genre. You want your readers to feel like the story could happen to them so you generate empathy which is a powerful emotion to experience.

So, what makes you keep on reading?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Is Isolation Good for the Imagination?

Last week I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Amsterdam. Holland is one of the few countries in Europe that I have never been to so I couldn't wait to explore the capital of the Netherlands.

Of course there were sights I expected to see; the chilled out so called 'coffee' shops and the red light district. But as I soon began to learn Amsterdam is so much more than meets the eye.

For a start it is home to the museum of one of my favourite artists: Vincent Van Gogh.

I studied Van Gogh in primary school. We used pastels to recreate my favourite painting: The Starry Night.

Back then I enjoyed his work immensely and this enjoyment has lasted a further twenty years. I think his paintings are exquisite and I find the style of them so unique.

But besides creating these wonderful paintings, Van Gogh unfortunately had a darker side to him as well. His self mutilation of his ear has made him world famous and it is well known that he spent most of his life just drifting around, unable to do anything well except paint.

Now a few months ago I blogged about 'Do you Have to be Crazy to be Creative?' with Van Gogh in mind. But as I explored most of his life history I realised he really did need to be crazy to produce his best work.

During the final few years of his life Van Gogh was sent to an asylum. He spent a year there where he spent the majority of time alone. And it was in this asylum where he produced his finest art.

Van Gogh always maintained the reason why he did his best work there was simple enough to understand. It was really the only place where he could concentrate without being distracted by the minutiae of everyday life.

Despite saying this it was also the place where he was at his most loneliest. He painted a picture of cornfields and crows to try to capture the feelings of isolation and his inner turmoil.

Now this painting really got me thinking. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are not good for the soul. But are they good for the imagination?

Writers, like artists, spend most of their working time alone. They sit down and write, pulling wild and fanciful stories out of thin air. But these stories really come from their imagination and the imagination needs time by itself to work properly.

Some writers, myself included, will say that in order to write well they have to go out into the 'real' world to experience life and get ideas for their plotlines. But unless I am left alone to transfer these thoughts and ideas on to paper I simply cannot write well.

So, is isolation a necessary evil in order to write well or get things done? Even though writers complain of feeling lonely, do they need to accept that this is all part and parcel of the writing craft?

Tell me your experience of isolation and loneliness. Is it something you tend to suffer frequently or are you one of those people who can spend many happy weeks not seeing a soul?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

How Writing Ties in with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Like most people on this planet I need to be fulfilled. And I constantly seek out new and interesting ways to fill this desire. Until I find the things that make me whole I can't help but feel empty.

Now this isn't a romantic post; I'm far too cynical to write one of those. I'm not talking about finding your 'other half' in human form because I simply do not believe that to be the case. I believe we need a wide variety of people to fulfil our needs because expecting just one person to do that is highly unrealistic.

But separating what we want from what we need can sometimes be a very difficult thing to do. All people have wants and needs but not all of them know how to distinguish between the two.

According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, all people need oxygen, sleep, food, warmth, sex, liquid and shelter. These needs are on the baseline for human survival. It is only when we have all these needs fulfilled we can move on to the next level to have security of a job, family, health and somewhere to live.

And so the process goes on until people reach the top of Maslow's model. They pass things like friendship, esteem, achievements and respect from themselves and others. But it's only when they get to the top of this pyramid that Maslow has so carefully created can they say they have reached the final step of self - actualisation.

For me this is where I can tie in my writing as creativity is one factor that makes up this final stage. Personally, I believe that writing fulfils me the most as no matter where I am or what I'm doing I can never imagine myself not writing.

Defining what we want and what we need is difficult because everyone defines needs and wants in different ways. Some people tend to lean more on the materialistic side of life while others would rather be in love than have money.

For me the most important thing is to have my health and then to write. To me your health is everything. But after that I need to write.

So does writing fulfil you in the same way? Do you think you have to be in the self - actualisation stage in order to write? Please share your thoughts.