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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Getting Inspiration From Aging

Getting Inspiration From Aging

Aging happens to all of us, even if we die young. And much like children experience various developmental stages, our aging has some stages, too. However, in order to avoid repeating myself, let’s throw out a caveat here and only look at age forty and up.

Forties

For most people in their forties, this decade is a good place to be. Any children are often out of the house or are just about to be. Perimenopause has started for most women. And while that can sometimes be challenging, it’s a signal of things to come. Work can be at or near its zenith in terms of pay and responsibilities. And the house might even be paid for by this time, or close to it.

However, for some people, this is the age bracket when early-onset Alzheimer’s begins.

Fifties

Going beyond the forties means more wear and tear on all bodies. By this time, most women are fully menopausal, although on rare occasions a woman in her fifties becomes pregnant. However, if she does decided to keep her child, she and her child have increased risks of problems.

For people who had children while in their thirties, this decade means sending them to college (and paying for it). Or it can mean getting them married (and possibly paying for that) or starting to work. Furthermore, not every child can afford to leave home and so people in their fifties may find they are still living with their kids. In addition, many people become grandparents during this decade.

This is also a decade to catch up on retirement savings and begin to assess options.

Sixties

While 65 was once the standard retirement age, that’s no longer the case. For people in more sedentary jobs, they might continue to work throughout this decade. In the United States, Social Security rewards you the longer you stay in the work force, so some people may try to make it through the decade.

Parents can often become grandparents in this decade, if they haven’t already. And their children may start to become a lot more financially independent. That’s a good thing, as people in their sixties need to think about the future even more. And it’s the decade when people start to (more often) become the target of scam artists. In addition, widows comprise about one-third of all persons aged 65 and older.

Furthermore, one in nine people over 65 have Alzheimer’s.

Seventies

A lot of people in their seventies may fit in the group of the so-called “young-old” if they haven’t had a major health scare. However, a lot of people get cancer (half of all cancers in Britain are diagnosed during this decade and later). And this is the decade when mortality from Alzheimer’s is at its highest, with 61% of those in this age group with Alzheimer’s dying before their eightieth birthday.

Age 72 is when the Social Security advantages to delaying retirement effectively stop. Hence anyone who works past 72 either likes what they are doing or they really, really need the money.

Eighties

By this decade, if you haven’t gotten Alzheimer’s, your chances of getting it continue to climb. And by now, the risk of it starts doubling every five years. By age 85 and older, one-quarter to one-half of all seniors will exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

However, if you make it past 45, life expectancy for both genders is in the eighties. Hence if you are in a couple, and you’re still together, you may even be during much of this decade. The differences in life expectancy for both sexes flatten out.

For people who have grandchildren, they are often grown or almost grown by now. And pretty much everyone in this age group should at least be thinking about help with the basics of life, everything from navigating stairs to running errands or doing chores.

Aging to the Nineties and Beyond

It’s hard to say if the incidence of Alzheimer’s goes down. Some studies seem to support this although in all fairness, the sample size is understandably smaller. Hence if the doubling incidence continues, that would mean virtually everyone in this age group would be showing at least a few symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, cancer is uncommon as a cause of death. However, even more people become widowed by now. And it might even be the second time that they have become widows or widowers.

Some people become great-grandparents during this decade (or during the previous one), although that depends a lot on a group’s age(s) at becoming parents. Very few people live alone or independently by now.

Is there an upper limit to how long we can live? That’s probably not something we can prove, at least not now. However, the oldest-ever confirmed individual was Jeanne Calment, who died when she was 122 and a half.

Aging: Some Takeaways

Beyond dry statistics about life expectancy, disease prevalence, and widowhood, aging can bring with it grace, or wisdom, or bitterness. All of these are choices, and many more, for your aging characters. Because not every interesting character is young, you know.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration From Literature

Getting Inspiration From Literature

Literature sometimes feels like medicine writing. You know you should read it. But sometimes it just feels like cod liver oil in book form.

Literature

What is it about literature? From the classic to the lowbrow, it permeates our lives. As writers, we might appreciate it more than others do.

Reading to Write

First of all, whenever people ask about how to best develop their writing chops, inevitably they are told two things. One of these is to read extensively. Hence if you are following this, you are already halfway there. And it does not have to be classics. It does not have to be Silas Marner or the like. You can be voraciously reading YA, or bodice rippers. It does not matter.

As a writer, examine the work. How does the author pull you from one chapter to the next? Or how does she start? How does the story end? Are the supporting characters as interesting as the lead(s)? Or do they take over? Or are they cardboard cutouts? Do you ever lose the suspension of disbelief?

Writing to Write

The other standard piece of writing advice is: write a lot. And you can do that with any form of literature. Hence take whatever you just read. Flip the POV (point of view) and rewrite it. Gender swap. Figure out what happens after ‘The End’, when the curtain comes down. Decide what happened before the story started. Write a back story for a supporting character, or even a bit player.

So if the work is in the public domain, then you might even be able to publish your work. Yet if it’s not, then treat it like any fan fiction and use it as a learning experience. Since you can’t publish fan fiction, why not consider how to further alter your new piece? Maybe you can convert it to something more wholly original. Because you might even be able to publish it.

Takeaways From Literature

Since so much of writing is structural, why not pick apart someone else’s work? Because if they have been published, then someone liked their work enough to take a chance on it. Finally, a peek behind the curtain can also show you where even great works falter. And that can be comforting if you ever doubt your own abilities.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration From The News

Getting Inspiration From The News

The News

News stories can be a fantastic source of inspiration. Remember the phrase, ‘ripped from the headlines‘? So while it has become a TV trope all its own, current events can really inspire. Because you just can’t make this stuff up.

International Events

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from the news
Do you get inspiration from the news?

In particular, when writing about an alien society, you can get a lot of mileage out of looking abroad. This is because governments, climates, poverty levels, languages, customs, and mores all differ. And some of those can differ rather substantially. Consider what weekends are like in Canada, in Israel, or in Japan. What about the educational system, or whether a nation is an energy exporter, or an importer? Furthermore, what happens when you look at dictatorships, or at least at different democracies?

National Current Events

By the time this blog post goes live, the American elections will be over (thank God!). However, what is voting like in the United States (this question also make sense when looking at other countries’ ways of doing things)? And what about the nominations process? Back room deals, lobbying, and pressing the flesh can all inspire. In addition, what about other areas of interest? How does the government balance the budget (if at all)? What about fads and fashions sweeping the nation?

And, naturally, these questions apply to other countries. None of this is confined to just America.

Local News

Your local news can be dominated by violence, or even by oddities. Small things can loom large if you live in a small town. I grew up in a fairly small town on Long Island although it has a connection to a larger township. Local current events often centered around the high school, the library, and the movie house. Closing a long-term business was a topic of great interest.

Sports

Sports are a terrific source for drama and inspiration, and include everything from come-from-behind victories to cheating and doping scandals. Are the winners gracious? Are the losers vindictive? Did something interesting happen to the spectators?

Takeaways

Open up your newspaper or do so virtually online. And check out the news next time you’re stumped for ideas.

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Getting Inspiration From The Physical World

Getting Inspiration From The Physical World

A Look at The Physical World

The physical world can inspire, whether it’s the Appalachian Trail, or your bedroom, or the Himalayas. And while not everyone can live in Paris or visit Yosemite National Park, we can all be inspired by our own personal universes. Moreover, if your world can inspire you, then your readers can come along for the ride.

The Great Indoors

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from the physical world
Does the physical world inspire you?

So consider The Chronicles of Narnia. Why? Because the means of traveling to a magical world is via a common ordinary wardrobe. And how about Alice in Wonderland? Lewis Carroll told his story about a lot of things Alice Liddell already knew, such as chair legs and a deck of cards.

So from your desk to your computer or chair, what can you really see when you look closely? Also, go beyond the somewhat common idea of a computer sucking someone into cyberspace. It’s not a bad idea; it’s just been done a lot. Maybe your character is buried by paper. Or they end up in the vacuum cleaner. Attics and cellars can seem very frightening. What about the walls, or the ceiling?

The Physical World Includes The Great Outdoors

And then we get to the outside. So what do we see? Carroll saw hedgehogs, dormice, and rabbits. We can also see plants, of course. Are they large and menacing, or small and fragrant? And what about natural structures or scenery, such as mountains, rivers, lakes, and canyons?

Part of The Wizard of Oz takes place in an apple orchard. It’s easy to see how and why L. Frank Baum imagined trees talking and even throwing fruit. How about imagining how a certain structure came to be? We all know (or at least we should) that craters come from falling meteors or even comet strikes. But what if a crater exists because a spaceship landed there? A structure like Stonehenge can also inspire.

Takeaways

Get outside and take stock of your surroundings. They may inspire more than you think.

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Character Sexuality

Character Sexuality

A look at character sexuality can take you in any number of directions.

Character Sexuality
Character Sexuality matters!

First of all, you need to listen to your characters. Are they telling you who they like? Maybe they are, or maybe they’re a little shy about that. Can you see your characters with someone of the same sex, or with anyone, for that matter? Because remember that your own characters’ sexualities need not reflect your own.

So consider how you will present it. For a great, matter-of-fact presentation of character sexuality, just look at Sulu in Star Trek Beyond. Because without saying a word, all that happens is, he is greeted by a man with a little girl, he hugs the girl, and then the three walk away as Sulu and the other man (it’s unclear whether they are meant to be married, so I’m hesitant to use a word like boyfriend or husband) go arm in arm. And that’s it. It’s subtle and loving and sweet.

And of course people protested. Because change can be scary to a lot of folks, I suppose.

Flipping Your Own Personal Script

You have probably been the same sexuality for much of your life. And while gender and sexuality can be fluid, that is not the case for everyone. However, there is a spectrum. Hence even if you have been, say, heterosexual your entire life, you may find you are not completely, 100% ‘straight’.

Furthermore, consider a thought experiment. Why am I suggesting this? Because a writer should be able to think about any number of characters and types of characters. And that includes those who have differing sexualities from the writer. After all, don’t we write about men if we are women, or women if we are men? Stephen King wrote about Dolores Claiborne. Harper Lee wrote about Atticus Finch. And even though most writers aren’t in their league(s), you can still make the effort.

Hence this means also looking into not only gay and lesbian characters, but also asexual characters, bisexual ones, and even characters into other things, like, say, S & M.

Character Sexuality: Some Takeaways

None of this is required, of course. But a thought experiment, I feel, is never a bad idea. You may find a character who speaks to you and who you really want to write. Or maybe you won’t. Only you can know that.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration from Exercise

A Look at Getting Inspiration From Exercise

Exercise

Exercise should be a vital part of anyone’s life. And you don’t have to be a gym rat to get inspiration from your workout or from what happens while you’re exercising. As we have seen in other instances, exercise is just another vehicle for inspiration if you look at it that way.

Your Workout

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from exercise
Exercise can be inspiring!

In order to maintain good health, you need to get up from your computer or chair on occasion. And you need to work out in some manner. Of course your decision as to what to do depends upon any number of factors. Maybe you’re elite and can train for a triathlon. However, for beginners, getting around the block might present difficulties. And if your area is sometimes an unsafe one, you might end up working out inside. So that can mean a gym membership or a pool or mall walking or even just equipment in your home.

Hence one factor is your environment. As you observe it, consider your characters. Would the chipmunks you see on a nature trail amuse them? Or would they fight off demons while jogging in a less than savory part of town? Maybe they see exercise as a meditation (a lot of people do).

Your Characters Working Out

Your characters can get in on the action, too. Action and fantasy characters would fight or train. Romantic characters could go for walks. Science fiction characters might work out as a part of military training or even as a health requirement in low gravity.

Observations

Getting outside means you can overhear conversations. You can people watch, too.

Writer’s Block and Depression

First of all, I want to make it clear that, if you feel the need for medical intervention, please go ahead! A lot of writers can experience certain levels of depression and so by all means, care for yourself. However, I am also suggesting that exercising can help. For example, if you experience seasonal affective disorder, you will need full-spectrum light. Hence you need to either mimic it with a special light or go out in the sunlight. And here in New England, the winters are full of days with very little sunlight. Hence I have learned to get myself outside and to shovel snow if I have to (I’ve got to watch my back these days, so I do not make the kind of fast progress I used to) or walk carefully to avoid slipping on ice. Good boots are a lifesaver.

If that’s not in the cards for you, a gym membership or mall walking can at least help. Because you will also need to get up, get dressed, and get outside in order to do either.

Exercise: Some Takeaways

Everybody needs to take a break from writing. Your eyes will thank you! So you may as well get up and get some exercise. Live long enough to finish your series! Do it for your fans!

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Getting Inspiration from Visual Artists

Getting Inspiration from Visual Artists

Visual artists and the visual arts can be a source of intense inspiration. Because their struggles can be a lot like a writer’s.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Visual Artists
Do you ever get your inspiration from visual artists and their works?

Consider how a piece of art makes any of us feel. Does it inspire? Or are you puzzled? Can it move you emotionally? And what’s happening around the fringes? Because sometimes the details and the background are of more interest than the main subject. You know, just like in books sometimes.

Hence let’s take a look at some inspiring pieces.

Visual ArtistsOf course Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is one of the most recognizable pieces of art in the world.

Furthermore, the mystery of the piece continues to this day, as it has for a few hundred years. So, what, exactly, does her smile mean? After all, it’s a small smile. And so the model intrigues us, even now.

 

 

 

Here’s another one.Visual Artists Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory is another very well-known piece although you might not have known its name.

Because the painting is so strange, it can offer any number of interpretations. How important is time? Is the setting a desert? And what about the odd white lump in the center? Could that maybe be a creature wearing a clock as a saddle? Maybe it means we are all driven by time and memory. Hence we are all under its yoke.

So think about the paintings (and sculptures, too!) which you know. And consider what you see in them, for they may help, particularly with writer’s block.

A Practical Idea

So did you know that Pinterest has secret pin boards? It’s true. And what that means is, you can always create a secret board for only you to see. Or you can share it with a select audience, such as beta readers or even fans, if you like.

And all you need to do is, go to your profile and scroll all the way down. You’ll find it on the left (“Create Secret Board“). And that’s all you need to. So fill it with art which has meaning for you.

Visual Artists: Some Takeaways

Visual artists and art can inspire. And the internet means you don’t even have to visit a museum, although you might want to, anyway.

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Getting Inspiration From Names

Getting Inspiration From Names

Names

While names have meanings, you can even get inspiration simply from how they sound. What’s Gertrude like? How about Lakeisha? Or maybe Stefan or Juan?

Popularity

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from names
Can you get inspiration from names?

The popularity of what people call their children changes over time. This can depend upon movie stars, politicians, or even religious figures. When I was born in 1962, my first name, Janet, was already past its peak. However, it was popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Why?

Because in 1937, Janet Gaynor starred in A Star is Born. However, Janet Leigh did not star in Psycho until 1960. And Janet Jackson doesn’t seem to be having too much of an effect on baby naming. For a lot of little girls who would have have the name Janet in the past, now often have the name Jennifer or Jessica.

Ethnicity

Another factor? Ethnicity. Maria has probably made the crossover to non-Spanish and non-Italian families, but not Juan and Vito. How many non-Russians have the name Boris (the British politician Boris Johnson notwithstanding)? And do you know any non-Irish women named Siobhan? So when you create your characters, see if you can match ethnicity. Of course there are Jewish kids named Sean and British people named Dominic. So this isn’t a hard and fast rule or anything.

For my own work, Ceilidh O’Malley in The Real Hub of the Universe has the most ethnic name of all of my main characters. But Noah Braverman and Mei-Lin Quan from Mettle are up there, too, as is Mercedes Pérez in Time Addicts.

Tradition

For westerners, traditional names generally come from both the Old and New Testament, or from the saints. Hence you see Margaret and Mary, but also James and David. Other related names can be similar or with alternate spellings or derivatives. Marynel and Maryellen of course derive from Mary, and Stefan is just the German version of Stephen (or Steven).

In my own work, the most traditional names mainly come from The Real Hub of the Universe. This is because that trilogy takes place in the 1870s and 1880s.

Inventions

People also, sometimes, invent new names. Actress Alyssa Milano’s daughter is named Elizabella. So of course the name comes from clipping the Beth part off Elizabeth and instead inserting the similar name, Bella. While it might or might not catch on more widely, it’s a fairly harmless alteration. Plus it allows for a number of shortenings.

Because all of the characters in Untrustworthy are aliens, I had to come up with names. Hence I came up with Tathrelle, Ixalla, Adger, and Velexio.

Takeaways For Names

Name your characters whatever you wish, but do keep them consistent within your universe. And while there’s technically nothing wrong with having two similarly-named characters, if they spend too much time together and are otherwise too similar, that can lead to some . Hence you might occasionally want to change Tim and Tom to Tim and Dan.

And keep in mind, names can come into and go out of fashion. These days, very old-fashioned names are often popular again. Hence, your futuristic science fiction novel might have people named Hiram, Dorcas, or Ethel.

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Career changing Inspiration Writing

Writing Children and About Children

Children

Children characters can present their own set of challenges. And keep in mind, I wrote a bit about kids in the Aging post. However, now it’s time for a deeper dive into what it means to write about children.

Don’t gloss over childhood. It’s not all sunshine and roses. Some kids have truly horrible lives – bullying, abuse, poverty, and trafficking are all still with us. And don’t forget, even infants can get cancer. But right now, let’s concentrate on some issues that are a lot easier to take.

Infants and Toddlers

The very young can change in rather rapid and surprising ways. Fortunately, several developmental charts exist. And they can give you an idea of what a baby or child can do at a certain stage. Hence, for example, a newborn should not be out of diapers unless they have help or you are writing some sort of fantasy. Furthermore, while these charts give an idea of what to expect, they’re not laws.

Kids develop at their own paces. So recognize that while your newborn character going diaper-less is probably not going to be believable, you can still write a range for these milestones. Furthermore, you can also use standard milestones as a way to signal problems with a baby, such as by showing the reader a child who should be crawling as barely holding his head up.

Preschoolers and Elementary School Children

The start of school is a major event in a young child’s life. And so are other firsts, such as learning to read and beginning to really socialize. And their vocabularies are growing as their worlds continue to expand. By this time, they probably have a good idea of their sexuality even if girls are icky and boys are gross.

For the most part, a child does not naturally lisp! Adding lisping and other affectations will just irritate most readers. However, you can indicate immaturity with simpler sentence structures and vocabulary. A young child has not read Kierkegaard. And they probably don’t know what plenipotentiary means, either. Unless, of course, they’re a genius.

But use genius characters sparingly. Most people just plain aren’t Einstein or Hawking, etc. Too many geniuses, unless you make them some sort of a special program, are just going to be annoying to readers.

Tweens and Teens

As with younger children, these older kids have their own developmental milestones. Puberty in girls comes with not only the development of secondary sex characteristics, but also menarche. Adolescence in boys can arrive later than in girls.

Writing a historical novel? Then know that menarche (a girl’s first menstrual period) occurs about three years earlier now than it did a century ago. This is due to, among other things, better nutrition.

Kids in these age groups tend to start to get interested in relationships (although asexual folks beg to differ). Plus, everything can be ultra-dramatic. Some may be losing their virginity or facing pregnancy issues. And others might be late bloomers, wondering why things are happening to everyone but them. Our present-day culture attaches a number of privileges to this time, including becoming old enough to drive, work, drink, marry, go to war, and even vote.

Takeaways

Kids are more than their developmental stages. However, it still pays to know these and follow them, even if you want your characters to subvert them. And as with all characters, do your best to avoid clichés.

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Career changing Inspiration

Writing Better Dialogue

Writing Better Dialogue

Better dialogue can elevate any piece. And it can even help to salvage a bad or otherwise forgettable piece of writing. Consider, for example, the works of Aaron Sorkin or Robert Altman. While these are examples from television and film, they should give an idea.

Sorkin is known for excellent dialogue, from such films as The Social Network and TV shows like The West Wing. However, Altman’s fame comes more for overlapping dialogue, from films like Nashville, M*A*S*H, and McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

Word Choice

Consider your characters’ educational levels. A college graduate will, in general, use longer and more complex and subtle words versus a high school dropout. This does not necessarily mean one is smarter than the other, I might add. Hence consider who says prior to instead of before, or automobile rather than car. Because that will help the reader to define who is speaking if you are more or less consistent with who uses the ten dollar words, and who does not.

Affectations, Accents, and Pet Names

While I don’t want to get into accents again, you should consider regional dialects and regionalisms. A sandwich on a long roll is a grinder in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but it’s a hoagie in Philadelphia, a po’boy in New Orleans, and a sub in New York. So if your characters are from Queens, you’d better have them call it a sub unless they’re messing around or are copying someone from out of town.

Pet name usage can be extremely helpful in writing. When you write a couple, you may find you are writing a ton of dialogue between them. And it can get boring to constantly write he said, she said, so you can usually drop that after the first trade of words. However, you may need to pick that up again after a while if you think the reader will get lost. And it could be that they can really get lost if your couple is of the same-sex variety. However, if one person calls the other one snookums, and the other doesn’t use pet names or just says darling, then the reader gets a clue when you use those terms. Just be consistent and your readers will thank you.

Takeaways

Listen to people talk whenever you can, and try to read your dialogue aloud. If you can get a friend to help you, even better. Because if your sentence is a tongue twister for you, then it is for your character (and, by extension, your readers as well).

Unless you meant to do that.