Rules to develop mental strength

Photo by Jeremy Cai from Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Cai from Unsplash

The other day I was looking through my “Notes” file for The Shadow Clock and found this self-help list I had written to myself with the title “rules to develop mental strength”:

  • No comparisons
  • Choose conviction/self-belief rather than self-doubt
  • Make choices for physical health
  • Recognize that I am on a mission to cultivate fortitude and consciously look for ways to do that

(Okay, the fourth point is basically a roll up of the previous three, but I like the idea of being on a mission to cultivate fortitude – I can picture doing it in some ninja/Navy Seal jumpsuit with hidden pockets.) I forget what was going on at the time I wrote this, but mental strength is a quality I desperately need right now. I’m trying to finish a draft of the new book to give to my editor in March, and instead of going full bore on writing, I’m frittering away my concentration on job angst. So unproductive!

This list reminds me of myself as a kid, when I would go to the library and check out books about ESP or meditation. I so wanted to develop super powers. What I didn’t know then is that by the time you’re older with kids and a job and you’re reading the news about climate change, it’s a super power just to protect some imaginative bandwidth in your brain!

Anyway, mental strength is my project now. I’m just hoping I can find the right jumpsuit for this.

How I got a Muse

Art and the Muses by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (Wikimedia)

Art and the Muses by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (Wikimedia)

Years and years ago, Dreamwood started with the image of a young girl looking through her father’s microscope. I knew the setting was another time. And I knew ghosts were hovering just outside the frame. Yay, a story.

My ideas usually start like this: from images, or I hear a voice speaking a line. A scene or picture will arrive in my head, like a mysterious postcard sent from story world.

I’ve had these story visions happen on public transportation, when I’m just waking up, during acupuncture naps. They’re pure gifts when they bring a new story. But I would sometimes have them when I was trying to push through a stuck point in Dreamwood.

It got me thinking. Could I order my subconscious around? Or at least make it more productive. I don’t have all the unbroken daydreamy time I had when I was younger. I’ve got to make creativity as efficient as possible. Especially now I’m trying to write something new.

So I began to imagine a person, a personal creativity assistant (I guess you could call her a muse) who could go into my subconscious and bring me back the story stuff I needed. I was riding BART one morning into San Francisco to work and I asked for her and she appeared. She’s a glowing slyph, a punk Tinkerbell with jagged, anime hair, unlaced engineers’ boots, cut-off shorts, and a tank top. She’s a little bit like a cartoon character. Only she’s not Tinkerbell, but “Bell.”

“Bell,” I say, picturing her, “go into my subconscious and find the things I need for this story.”

So then I see her giving me a kind of aye-aye captain salute and getting ready to go spelunking in my subconscious, which is sometimes like a sunken treasure ship, sometimes like an old gothic library, sometimes like a stuffed full attic or treasure vault. I picture candlesticks and piles of books, maps, old coins, stuffed dodos, ladies’ boots and mouldering velvet dresses.

I’ve been sending Bell to work before I go to sleep and in the mornings as I walk to work. Sometimes I’ll ask her for something specific. But other times I’ll simply check in with her, and drop into whatever she’s found for me like I’m gazing on a scene through a crystal ball.