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Seeking Inspiration From The Dark Corners Of My Closet

February 20, 2020 by in category Writing

I have a beautiful room in my home where I write and sew everyday. The walls are a lovely warm and fuzzy peach color and I revel in the joys of having my very own private domain to work in. My talented husband installed cherry cabinets, a murphy bed and a very large table that folds down. I have bookshelves filled to the max with everything one might need to write or sew and a super computer. A large barn door covers a sometimes organized- although often not – cupboard, shamefully filled with more fabric than I could ever hope to use in a lifetime. Large windows let in tons of sunlight and ocean breezes  and I often find inspiration just staring off into rolling hills of green. It seems like the perfect place to write and it usually is.

But yesterday, I ran into a glitch when I decided that the story I was working on needed a dark twist. I wanted to paint my character in shades of loneliness, sadness, perhaps even despair. My heroine was having mystical dilemmas that caused her heartache and pain and my happy,  sunny domain just didn’t support the creation of those kinds of feelings. I tried to refashion my environment to support my writing needs. I outlined in my head where I wanted my storyline to go, I put on soft, melancholy music, closed the shades and dug down deep into my soul and  waited for dramatic feelings to flow. But none came, I was totally stymied.

That night, I switched my writing spot to my moonlit back yard hoping for inspiration to hit. It was dark and cold and maybe even a little lonely. But the only thing that happened was that I got the sniffles from the fog that rolled in, enveloping me in damp blankets of white. This morning,  determined to create the blues, I returned to my office, chastising  myself for not just jumping in earlier. After all, I know what it feels like to be sad, to feel lost, wanting to tuck myself away and I was confused as to why I was having so much trouble tapping into those emotions. It was then that I realized that I had the perfect place to nurture those feelings – my closet. It’s the one place where I fled to when my mom died and I needed to remember, to feel and ultimately to cry. And cry I did in my silent hiding place.

Located on our second floor, is a very large walk-in closet and although it has a couple of small windows, closing the door and  dropping  the shades, effectively shuts out the world at large. This dark hole  offered the perfect hiding place in which to create my whirlwind of dark emotion.

Grabbing my laptop, I headed upstairs, determined to write. Closing the door, I sat down on the carpeted floor,  flipped open my laptop and began. I envisioned my main character, the turmoil she was feeling, the confusion and angst that plagued her and the sorrow that consumed her  and I wrote. I never heard the phone ringing or the shouts from my husband. I just wrote. And within a couple of hours, I had created the world I had been searching for.

As I headed back downstairs, I met my husband who asked, “Where were you? I couldn’t find you. Didn’t you hear me calling you? Your sister phoned. I told her that you must have gone for a walk.”

I smiled. I’m glad that he hadn’t found me sitting on the floor in my dark closet, he might not have understood. I’m afraid he would have freaked him out. But for that one moment, my closet offered me the ideal place to feel, to imagine and to write. I hope that you find your own perfect writing place.

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One of my characters unexpectedly showed up in my dreams last night.

January 20, 2020 by in category Writing

This always seems to happen when I’m about half way through writing a new book. It’s not something that I plan for. And yet, it always takes me by surprise. Although clearly it shouldn’t, because, as I said, it seems to happen every time I’m about half way through writing a new book.

I start dreaming about the various players I’ve created. Sometimes they look just like I’ve envisioned and sometimes they surprise me with a different appearance, style or mannerism. They just feel different than I thought they should.  And that new twist usually freaks me out, sending me spiraling in self-doubt. Do I need to revamp a character or rethink my storyline?

In the past, most of my books came to life rather quickly. I didn’t  necessarily plan things out the way some authors do. I just sat down and wrote. I spent hours with my butt in my chair dreaming and writing and dreaming some more as my story evolved. And it was usually just one or two of my minor characters who popped up in my dreams demanding  consideration.

But this time was different. This storyline has been percolating in my brain for about a year.  I knew what I wanted to write about, I had my main character’s name and I had a sense of where I wanted to take the story. But I also knew that this story would require some research as my character was an artist with some “special” abilities.

As I am not an artist and don’t have a hint of artistic skill hiding inside of me, I had my work cut out for me. I didn’t know the lingo or the tools involved in painting a portrait, something I quickly realized I needed if this story was ever going to work. Oh, and those “special” abilities my main character, Pandora Twissleman has – well, I had to learn more about those too. Yes, I had an exciting idea that I was looking forward to pursuing. I wanted to creatively paint my story, but I also needed to be accurate, realistic and believable.

Unfortunately, I think this time, I might have gone a bit too far down the rabbit hole and gotten lost in all of  the research details. I apparently didn’t give enough attention to the soul, the inner workings of my main character. So when Pandora showed up in my dreams last night, I was immediately concerned.  Oh, she looked like I thought she should. She had the right hair and eye color and facial features. But this Pandora had attitude, something I had never even considered giving her.

It really gave me reason to pause. Why did I dream that? Do I want her to have attitude? And what happens if I don’t give her any? Will she haunt my dreams until I give her at least a smidgen?

I think I need to take a step back today, put my butt in my chair and think, dream and consider more options before I continue down this writing trail. Hopefully Pandora and I can get our heads together soon and I can finish this new book before it turns into a real nightmare.

Happy New Year and pleasant dreams to you all!

Meriam

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A Tiny Thank You That Warmed The Heart

December 20, 2019 by in category A Bit of Magic by Meriam Wilhelm

Over the past week, my two year old granddaughter has been staying at our home. She is the definition of joy and I am so very grateful to have her in my life. However, I now understand why I had my kids young; what a whirlwind of endless, positive energy she is.

I am pleased to say that her mom and dad have done a wonderful job teaching her to always say thank you – and I do mean always! Whether I am giving her a sippy cup or offering to help her walk down the stairs, she never fails to say, “Thank you, Grandma.” And when she doesn’t want to do something, she just laughs and says, “No thank you, Grandma”. Okay, maybe she says that part more times than I’d like, but heck, she’s only two!

This beautiful little child has shamed me, reminding me of something so crucial in life – the need to say thank you to those who help you along the way. It is humbling indeed to realize that I have not always done a good job in this area.  Writing can be a solitary, lonely activity and I know I would never have continued trying, had it not been for the support of many other writers, family members and friends.

Marianne Donley offered me a chance to blog for A Slice of Orange when I was just starting out. And when I faltered, she gave me a second chance. Thank you Marianne.

And to all of you out there who have given me or another writer a helping hand, thank you. You may never truly know how much your help meant to us, but take it from me, it did.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Thank you!

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The Search by Meriam Wilhelm

November 20, 2019 by in category A Bit of Magic by Meriam Wilhelm

Lately, whenever I sit down to write, a million extraneous thoughts begin to wheedle their way into my head. Some irrelevant, others more important, they all tangle together, creating a web of distraction that entraps my creativity, smothering it in disorganization. Priority be damned, I sadly seem to let every random thought overtake me, derailing me from my storytelling track.

Frustrated and struggling to find some much needed  time to finish my next chapter, it suddenly occurred to me that my biggest stumbling block to success is me, myself and I!

Anxious to finish chapter thirteen in my new book, I sat down at my computer and constructed my opening paragraph. Yeah, I can do this. But then I remembered, I forgot to pay my Talbots bill. Struggling back to the story line, I was distracted  by my rumbling stomach. Did I ever eat breakfast this morning? Oh yes, I had toast with peanut butter. My neighbor called asking to borrow something or other and my mind began to wander. I definitely need to take a trip to the market to get more something or others. Back on task again, I glanced at my calendar resting on my desk. Jeez, I forgot my dentist appointment was tomorrow. Noting the date, I panicked. My daughter’s wedding is in three weeks and I have a million more things to do. Where am I ever going to find a pair of shoes to go with my dress? The shoes need to be the right shade of blue, comfortable and not too pricey. Maybe I should check online.

Achh, I was doing it again! I needed to stop my wandering mind and get back to my chapter. But how was I ever going to tame my chaotic brain?

Afraid I might be losing my writing mojo; I called my good friend who suggested that I create a To Do list and make a check each time I finish a paragraph until I finish the entire chapter. Good idea, right? Wrong. At least wrong for me. I already know what I need to do, I ‘m just not doing it. So I rationalized, if a To Do list can bring success, how about a Not To Do list?

After some reflection, I grabbed a moment and created a short, but sturdy Not To Do list:

  1. I will not set up unreasonable time expectations. Instead, I will block off one hour at a time dedicated exclusively to writing, intent on training my mind to stay on task. If I do this right, one hour will eventually turn into two... I hope!
  2. I will not sit down to write on an empty stomach or in need of a cup of coffee. Oh, and a trip to the bathroom before hitting the keyboard might be wise.
  3. I will not leave my calendar in plain sight while writing. The brightly colored floral pages are really quite pretty and equally distracting.
  4. I will not answer the phone for a one hour block of time while writing. I get a lot of phone calls, so an hour seems like a doable amount of time to restrict my calls.
  5.  I will not allow nagging tasks to tempt me to distraction.  Should one pop into my head, I will work hard to deflect it. If it continues to pry its way in, I will jot it down on a sheet of paper and  get back to writing. At the end of my hour, I can review my jotted thoughts and return phone calls, if I so desire.

It’s day three of my Not To Do list and it’s going okay… I guess. Unfortunately, chapter thirteen is still incomplete, but at least it’s a lot further along than it was. 

I think I need to add a 6th item: I will neither panic nor give up if this doesn’t work right away.

Perhaps you too have faced these same struggles? If you have any strategies that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them.

Until then, Happy Writing!

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Did They Really Fly?

October 20, 2019 by in category A Bit of Magic by Meriam Wilhelm, Writing tagged as , ,

Fall is my favorite time of the year and an opportunity for me to share three unusual witch facts with you. Why? Well, of course, because I write about witches. But since my witches live primarily at the beach, and since that might seem peculiar to you, I thought I’d share a few other things you might find different, unusual or just plain funky about my favorite subject—witches!

1. Witches were not originally thought to be bad, evil or even scary.

Many practitioners of witchcraft were originally respected as healers, providing helpful healing aids to their villages. Using plant based remedies they created tinctures, oils and healing potions which they shared freely throughout their communities for the purpose of curing everyday maladies. Many were known for having vast gardens, where they harvested plants and flowers for medicinal uses. The popularity of using natural plants and flowers as healing tools is on the rise again today. Herbal Medicine, Natural Remedies by Anne Kennedy is a great resource for info on this.

THE WITCH OF BERGEN
Buy now!

(My book, The Witch of Bergen shares a witch who is one hunky healer)

2. Witches didn’t really fly on brooms… or did they?

People who practiced witchcraft experimented with herbs and potions in rituals that may have used the Mandrake plant. Mandrake contains scopolamine and atropine, two alkaloids that cause feelings of euphoria in low doses and hallucinations in higher doses. The rituals—performed in the nude—called for the participants to rub an herbal ointment containing the mandrake on their foreheads, wrists, hands, and feet as well as on a broomstick that they would  ride. The ointment would be absorbed into their system, causing a floating sensation—and their description of that feeling is what perpetuated the image of a witch flying on a broomstick.    Adapted from an article in https://mentalfloss.com

Others believed that brooms were never “flown”, but rather used to sweep rooms clean to allow for a sterile environment for creating powerful potions.

3. Did you know that there is a Witch Capitol?

There is and it’s not Salem, Massachusetts! It is Vardo, Norway. It’s dark, cold and hard to get to, but what else would you expect from a place that honors witches? Called the Steilneset Memorial it  recognizes the ninety one victims of the witch persecution that started in Norway in the early 1600’s and ended in 1692. 135 people were prosecuted for the crime of being a witch with 91 of them actually dying at the stake for their crime. The structure itself is a bit haunting, but none the less memorable. When I was in Bergen, Norway, I attempted to go there. But the train trip required was far too long and I had to put my trip off for the next time I’m in Bergen. I hear visiting there at midnight will set your teeth to chatter!

Just a few thoughts on witches to warm a cold October day.

Happy Halloween!

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