I was reminded yesterday of a creative writing workbook I had used when I was in college between 1998-2001 called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. During that time I was going to the European Division of the University of Maryland University College. Yes, it had the acronym of UMUC.
Some one made the joke that we were running amok and it kind of stuck.
While I was in that college I worked on a BA in English Literature and a minor in Germany history. I won’t get into the curriculum, but the writing schedule was brutal. I wrote at least two papers for the history courses and three to four papers for the English courses. I was either memorizing, researching, or writing. Plus I didn’t have the time for brain freezes.
This book had exercises to help keep the brain on track. It also advises writers to do other things so that our subconscious can have some time to put some pieces together without our logical brain trying to help. The logical brain has that “editor” that wants our writing to be perfect. It causes the subconscious mind to go on strike.
It is not a good thing to turn off either the subconscious or logical mind. I thought at one time that writing with the subconscious mind would make great stories and poems. Not true. It’s the logical mind that contains the grammar and sentence structure.
If you’ve tried to read “stream of consciousness” you’ll find it is hard reading. If I wanted to be a literature writer with only a couple of readers, I would go that direction. But I want to write genre fiction, particularly fantasy.
One of the reason’s I like “The Artist’s Way” and Julia Cameron’s other book “Walking this World” is because it lets the subconscious play a bit. Then it helps the subconscious and logical mind work together in the act of creation.
So if your well of ideas is going dry and your mind is blank. Try some of her ideas.
As for me, I am going back to writing on Unlicensed Sorceress. Here is a taste of it.
Unlicensed Sorceress Chapter 10 Scene 1
It was slightly humiliating to be in school with the junior mages. Hilda wasn’t as limber as the young ones who sat in a circle and yelled out the alphabet. Five little ones just over six years old and Hilda was at least forty years older than the youngest one.
At lest the reading teaching didn’t expect her to sit on the rug. Hilda sat in a chair behind the other students, laboriously writing the first three letters of the alphabet. It wasn’t often that they got adults in the reading class. The teacher had assured her that she would learn. It was a little humiliating that the younger students were learning faster than she was.
A younger mage came over to look at her work. She was writing on a slate. “Here,” the mage said. “You need to make straighter lines.
The chalk felt dusty and she pressed to hard on the slate. The chalk broke and one half flew across the room. It had been a long time since she had been an underling and it was frustrating. The young mage who was showing her the letters hid a smile behind a hand.
“Come on,” he said. “You have several advantages. Use your skills. Don’t you know how to communicate with a team?”
Hilda nodded her head. They had used signs and symbols to communicate with each other, this wasn’t any harder.
“Plus,” the mage continued. “You have an elemental. She can help you.”
Hilda didn’t want to use Sassy. She’d have the little elemental saying, “A. A. A,” at her until Hilda went crazy. The mage looked at her sternly. It was kind of funny to see a teenager look stern. It was the same look she gave to others when they weren’t trying.
In front of them, the children had gotten to their feet and were jumping up and down. The noise in the room stopped her concentration. She wanted to sit up and jump up and down too.
“Come on,” said her teenage torturer. “Call your elemental.”
One thing she didn’t want the mage’s to know was that she didn’t have to call the elemental. Sassy stayed with her all the time. In fact she was peeping out from behind her hair so that she could get a closer look at the children. She wasn’t much older than the children.
You’d think that elementals were old as the hills. You’d think that they had been here forever. Yes, elementals had been here forever. They they were born and then they died. Sassy was from an old line but she was a young one. Hilda had found her on the battlefield. She had saved Sassy and Sassy had saved her. Still Sassy loved the energy of the children and wanted to play with them.
When the teenage mage saw Sassy, his eyes widened. “She’s not full grown.” There was a tone of outrage in his voice.
“You could say that,” said Hilda.
“What did you do with her parents?”
Hilda could see that the teenage mage was agitated. Hilda leaned away from him when she saw the small fireball in his hand.
The teacher saw the fireball, gathered up the children, and then herded them outside.
“Time to play,” she said gaily. The children got into line and followed her out.
Hilda watched the teenage mage. “Put out the fire,” she said.
“Not until you tell me what you did to her parents.” The teenage voice changed and his eyes went red. The boy was gone and in its place was an elemental.
“I didn’t know you could possess a human,” Hilda said. She stood up and put her hand on her belt. Her sword was gone. Plus she didn’t want to kill the mage. She could push the mage and not get hurt. Having a fire elemental meant that she couldn’t be hurt as badly when struck with fire magic.
Still she put her hand on Sassy. “No,” she said to Sassy. “No.”
“I did nothing to her parents.” Hilda said to the possessed mage. “She was flickering when I found her.”
“Liar,” roared the possessed mage.
Mage Godfroy hurried into the room. “Stop it,” he said when he saw that we were about to get into a fight. I had been a few in my day. The young ones forgot that even though I hurt in places, I did know how to make a young man hurt even worse.
When we didn’t change position, and the possessed mage started to move his hands into an intricate pattern, Mage Godfroy yelled, “Stop It!”
The sound of his voice hung in the hair and vibrated through Hilda’s body. The mage must have put a spell behind the words because Hilda stopped and the young mage stopped. The two of them couldn’t move.
“What started it,” Mage Godfroy said.
His words loosened the teenage mage so that he could speak. “Her elemental is too young.”
“I know,” said Mage Godfroy. “She has a dispensation.” Then he turned toward Hilda, “and you?”
Hilda’s lips moved. “Just defending myself, sir.”
Mage Godfroy dropped his control over them. “You,” he pointed at Hilda. “Learn to read.”
As if Hilda could learn to read immediately without practice. She sighed and went back to her chalk and slate.
“You,” he pointed at the teenage mage. “Come with me.”
The younger mage shook a little. “But sir.” A little whine came out of his mouth.
Mage Godfroy grabbed the younger mage by the back of the neck. Hilda could hear his words, “You allowed your elemental to possess you. After your discipline, you’ll go back to the beginning classes.”
Hilda heard a whine coming from teenage mage. Soon Hilda was alone in the room.
She began tracing the letters again. “Sassy,” she said. “Can you help me with these letters?”
Sassy jumped out and sat next to the slate. “A. A. A,” she said. Hilda sighed. If she wanted to get licensed as a magic-user, she needed to learn how to read. “What’s this one?” she asked Sassy.
“B. B. B,” Sassy said.
Why couldn’t she use magic to learn to read?
“C. C. C,” Sassy started with the next letter.