Posts tagged: noumenon

Unlock Writer’s Block – What You Need to Know When the Words Won’t Flow


'm going to illustrate this blog post with a simple tale springing from ranch life. This is a true story, obviously, since those are photos. This is The Day  Corcovado Learned  to Load and Unload from a Trailer. Note that the horse is not freaking out, pitching a fit, or tramping his handlers. No, Corco is doing something more effective. He's adopted The Mule Stance. My mind is following Corco's example as I contemplate rewriting Mogollon.

I'm going to illustrate this blog post with a simple tale springing from ranch life. This is a true story, obviously, since those are photos. This is The Day Corcovado Learned to Load and Unload from a Trailer. Note that the horse is not freaking out, pitching a fit, or tramping his handlers. No, Corco is doing something more effective. He's adopted The Mule Stance. My mind follows Corco's example as I contemplate rewriting Mogollon.

A while ago, I wrote that I was going to blog about the rewrite, the re-vision, of my draft version of Mogollon, the sequel to my award winning book, Numenon.

That was weeks ago. In that time, we put a Kindle version of Numenon out for 99 cents. Sales went crazy, Numo hit # 1 in Mysticism, and then cruised near the top of the Religious Fiction category.

This was a problem.

Why? Because Numenon is the introduction to the series. It’s got every hook in the world in it to make people want the sequel. It ends with a bang and points the reader dead at  Mogollon, the rewrite of which we are discussing.

Numenon‘s readers are already asking for the sequel; some are getting kinda grouchy about it. How long will my readers wait before dumping me entirely?

The book’s first and part of a  second draft is written. All I have to do is open my computer files and wail away, toiling for a really long time to get the manuscript cleaned up as well as I can. Then I have to go through the editorial and proofing process, necessitating months and months of hard work before a publishable version exists.

As owner of an Indie press,  after I do all the above, I get to manage the design and publication process, and then marketing and sales.

I  can’t open the manuscript’s files.  I’d rather do anything than think about the changes  I have to make. I’d as soon dismember my firstborn child as whack away at Mogollon.


* * *


An undisclosed amount of time later and the guys have the task in hand. All they have to do is get Corco from where he is into the trailer.

An undisclosed amount of time later and the guys have the task in hand. All they have to do is get Corco from where he is into the trailer. All I have to do is get Mogollon into print.

WHAT IS WRITERS’ BLOCK? Essentially, it’s psychological resistance. Usually it involves the writer’s ego: “My work is so important … The world needs my masterpiece. I can’t write. If I can’t write, I’ll die, and the world will be left without my words … What a tragedy.”

I realize that sounds judgmental and mindless of the pain of the condition, but remember that the blocked up person I’m talking about is me. I exhibit almost every causal attitude I’ll discuss below.

The desire to write the Great American (Latvian, Lithuanian, or Other) Novel can shut a writer down: “I have this HUGE idea. Can I possibly express it? Am I big enough? Good enough?” Hand wringing. Angst. Pain. It’s based on an inflated image of one’s importance in the Grand Scheme of Things.

If you regarded finishing your novel the way ranch people regard mucking out the stalls, would it be so hard? So wrenching? Would you stay awake nights because you couldn’t finish the job? No. When writing becomes a job of work, histrionics leave and you can get the thing done.

Writer’s block also can be associated with positive things. Sherman Alexie, the bestselling Native American author, reminds us that success can block you up good. How can you write when your last book was a national bestseller and your publisher is leaning on you for the new one? And grumbling about your contract and the advance you got for the three book deal?

Heart breaking, isn’t it?

Just plain fear is behind a lot of this. Can I do it? Can I bring it across? It’s the terror that arises when one faces in front of a blank screen or empty page. My eyes widen and I suppress a scream  . . .

Real progress: both front hooves are on the ramp. Corco continues to exhibit the Mule Stance.

Real progress: both front hooves are on the ramp. Corco continues to exhibit the Mule Stance. These photos were taken over several hours of intense human-equine power negotiation. Notice the carrot in Barry's hand. Sometimes positive reinforcement doesn't work. Also–Corco had a bath before these pictures were taken. His coat is wet from suds, not sweat. It's the guys who are sweating.

Laziness sometimes lurks behind the inability to finish a tale. Writing a novel is about the hardest kind of authoring imaginable. (Though I think a surgeon friend’s rewrite of his textbook on arthroscopic ankle surgery ranks up there)

You may begin your manuscript and discover that completing it requires the discipline to sit down and bang it out––to sit for days, months, and years. Despite your earth-shaking, sure to be a bestseller idea, your book won’t exist unless you write it down.

“It’s just too  hard … I can’t do it.” Another tragedy.

So you go to a writing group for support and stick around until you hear their feedback to your cherished production. Sometimes this can be bracing in a “pull up your socks” way, and sometimes it can shut down all creativity. Rough editors can do the same.

The rest of humanity, household pets, inanimate objects, and lousy viruses and bacteria can stop a writer’s progress. Life intrudes.

“Marge, there’s a truck in the living room. It just came through the wall.”

Call it resistance or an errant Mack truck, writer’s block is writer’s block. A cure exists. I have written about it: The Ultimate Cure for Writer’s Block. If you get what I say in this article, block will not trouble you, unless it wants to.

* * *


In a revolutionary move, Tony has PICKED UP CORCO'S HOOF and placed it farther onto the ramp. Notice that nothing has changed in the horse's stance. True resistance, perfectly executed. Well done, Corco!

In a revolutionary move, Tony has PICKED UP CORCO'S HOOF and placed it further onto the ramp. Notice that nothing else has changed in the horse's stance. True resistance, perfectly executed. Well done, Corco!








RESISTANCE IS LIKE THAT: It seems like a solid wall, but it’s got invisible cracks. As time passes, doors open, and close. Keep your eye on the wall, and go through when an opening appears. (That means write like crazy when you can.)



READ. You can read all sorts of stuff, including my online magazine,  SPURS MAGAZINE. SPURS is about changing the world, or at least cleaning up some of its nasty bits. I named it SPURS because in life, sometimes you need spurs to get moving. I’ve been writing SPURS since the late 1990s and am about to unleash it in blog form, as soon as I get over my paralysis over rewriting Mogollon.

Advanced training technique: Tony waves his hat while Barry pulls on the lead rope.

Advanced training technique: Tony waves his hat while Barry pulls on the lead rope. Corco remains unmoved. Some people resort to offering buckets of carrots and grain at this point. When that doesn't work, they escalate to use of two by fours and longe whips. Nasty. We don't do that. The inter species negotiation process intensifies as and the sun drops on the horizon …

SPURS’ WRITERS’ CORNER. Not only do I have a ‘zine, I’ve got a ‘zine for writers, dealing with topics that writers must manage or go insane. The WRITERS’ CORNER is one of the most popular locations on my web empire. (I’ve got 52 URLs, compadres.)

[Note: If you think Mogollon needs rewriting, SPURS' WRITERS' CORNER needs major surgery. Read it and know it's a draft. I'll rewrite it before I die. Or make it into a blog. Okay?]



SPURS’ WRITERS’ CORNER contains a bunch of articles relevant to writer’s block. These articles walk through the process of writing as experienced by me and many others. (Lots of references & links.) Please allow your browser time to open at the links.

As everything else fails, Tony and Barry attempt to FORCE Corco into the trailer.

Tony and Barry attempt to FORCE Corco into the trailer. Barry is inside the trailer, pulling hard, while Tony applies muscle at the other end. Does it work? What do you think? You can no more force a horse into a trailer than your brain to kick out the right words. (Note: Do not do what you see above at home. What's shown in the above photo is extremely dangerous and very bad horsemanship. Corco could kill either man if he lunged forward or bolted backwards.)




  • I’m tired.
  • I need a break.
  • A real break where I do NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH.
  • NO book marketing, planning the next move, scheduling book signings, reading blogs on marketing, sales, the latest Net techniques.
  • Take the box of books out of the trunk of the car “just in case.”
  • I need to stop doing what I’m doing and allow my personal process––my soul, if you will––to call the shots.
  • When The Universe wants me to finish Mogollon, I will, and probably pronto.

[HERE'S AN EXERCISE: I throw them in all over Stepping Off the Edge, might as well here. Please jot down any images or thoughts that come to you while you read my list, and the rest of the article, including hops to Spurs' Writers' Corner and Spurs Magazine. Take some time and generate your own list of word blockers. Where are you in the process above? I'm not saying that you're worn out, either. Your situation reflects your writing style and process. You may need a kick in the rear.]


I’m taking that break, goin’ to Santa Fe for three weeks. Santa Fe, New Mexico, is like catnip to me. Where we stay, there’s no Internet, no phone, no TV, no roads. Just wind and sky and a few snakes.


Tony leads Corcovado out of the trailer.

Tony leads Corcovado out of the trailer. Note how relaxed the horse is. He never had a problem going into or out of a trainer from this day forward.



About a minute after the previous photo, Corcovado walked into the trailer easily and with no fuss. He’d decided that he wanted to.

When your soul/brain/heart/body/hands decide it’s time to write, you will. You’ll write good stuff, that deserves to see the light of day.

PS. If you liked this article, you will like my book Stepping Off the Edge. It has much more about living the writer’s life, success, triumph, despair, and JOY.

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE on KINDLE– 99 cents for a limited time!

NUMENON on KINDLE––99 cents for a limited time!

Hasta luego, amigos! I’ll write more later! I have a date with a dirt road and cactus.


Numenon, by Sandy Nathan, is a Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner!

Numenon, by Sandy Nathan, is a 2009 Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner!


Sandy Nathan
Winner of the 2009 Silver Nautilus Award for
The Nautilus Awards are dedicated to “changing the world one book at a time.” The Nautilus Award was established to find and reward distinguished literary contributions to spiritual growth, conscious living, high-level wellness, green values, responsible leadership and positive social change.

By winning a Nautilus Silver Award with her book, Numenon,  author Sandy Nathan joins the ranks of  Deepak Chopra, M.D., Barbara Kingsolver, Thich Nnat Hanh, Jean Houston, PhD., Eckhart Tolle, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. All are Nautilus Award winners.

Buy Stepping Off the Edge for 99 cents!

Stepping Off the Edge is a wild ride to sacred places.

Stepping Off the Edge is a wild ride to sacred places. Includes an exclusive interview with Bill Miller, award winning Native musician, artist, & speaker.

Now you can buy the Kindle edition of my award-winning book, Stepping Off the Edge , for 99 cents! The book is offered at this great price for a limited time only. Click here and go to the Kindle store.

The Kindle edition of Stepping Off the Edge is absolutely gorgeous: The Native American themed interior and cover converted to the Kindle format better than I hoped. All of my pen and ink drawings are included and look beautiful.

This is the book that proves spiritual studies do not have to be boring. Stepping Off the Edge is part memoir, part self help, part riding lesson (horses play a big part), and all amazing.

This book was written during a period of my life that I’m glad is over. Though it provided great material and a way of illustrating everything useful I learned earning two master’s degrees and a life of spiritual practice.

Join me as I find my roots in Missouri’s Ozarks, travel to Tennessee to a Native American retreat, and meet Bill Miller, multi-Grammy winning musician and artist. Lots more, including the meaning of the word “fault” to people from California.

* 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist in New Age (Spirituality/Metaphysics)
* Bronze Medal Winner in Self Help, 2007 IPPY Awards
* National Indie Excellence Awards 2007: Finalist in THREE Categories: Memoir, Self Help, & Spirituality.

When Sandy Nathan set out to write a book about her profound experience at the Gathering, a Native American spiritual retreat, little did she know it would guide her to chronicle a life of stepping off the edge. Again and again , she takes the risks needed for her soul’s growth and vividly presents her personal journey––one of growing into the courageous spiritual being she is. Sandy reminds us we all possess spiritual greatness: It is our birthright.

By walking with Sandy along her path we get more than a glimpse of a person. We get a revealing and inspiring view of her life. Her adventure and the understanding she adds as she writes help us use her experience to enhance out own development. This book does much more than tell about a life: It takes us by the hand (or sometimes by the nose) and leads us to the opportunity afforded by spiritual practice. And practice is the key word.

Stepping Off the Edge is alive with information and inspiration. It is a book about doing. It’s more than a book that describes chocolate cake or even one that tells you how to make chocolate cake. It is a book that gets your mouth watering for chocolate cake and then lets you loose in the kitchen stocked with recipes and everything you need to make your own chocolate cake. With fudge frosting. And chocolate chips if you want them.

In this fascinating narrative you will encounter the basics of prayer, meditation, worship, spiritual retreat, and how a life can become dedicated to the pursuit of experiencing the divine. You will even find how to domesticate your mind and make it an ally in your quest for inner knowledge.

It is said that the path to self-awareness is a solitary one. Stepping Off the Edge opens you to the possibility that it can be fun, challenging and rewarding.

Sandy Nathan & Bill Miller at the Gathering Book Signing

Sandy Nathan & Bill Miller at the Gathering Book Signing


“This is a dynamic book. It’s alive with Ms. Nathan’s passion, and her presence is in every line, teaching and learning with you, helping you when you stumble, because she’s stumbled too. It’s rich with energy and meaning.”
- Gerald DiPego, Screenwriter, Phenomenon

“Sandy’s book has got to be one of the most fun to read books about spirituality ever written. She takes the reader along on her adventures with a down to earth approach and style that keeps the reader in touch–with both reality and spirituality. Informative, entertaining, and enlightening.”
Natural Horse Magazine, Volume 8 Issue 5

Award Winning Book Covers: Your Book WILL Be Judged by its Cover. Book Cover Coaching.


"It May Be Forever" Cover by Lewis Agrell

"It May Be Forever" Cover by Lewis Agrell. I love this cover!

Most of the book contests, like the Benjamin Franklin Awards, IPPYs, Indie Excellence, and all the rest, are closed for the year. The books have been submitted and they’re being judged. Will your book win? Two factors have a very large weight in determining whether you walk away a winner––or get passed up: Your COVER and your TITLE. Today we’re going to talk about book cover design. While it may be late if you’ve got books in competitions this year, you can use what follows for future years.

I’m very pleased to introduce my second guest blogger, Lewis Agrell of The Agrell Group. Lewis and I go back years. He designed promotional materials for my first book, Stepping Off the Edge. I loved what he did and called on him to do the same for Numenon. Lewis designed a one-sheet for Numenon, book marks, and a gorgeous over-sized post card. He also designed the e-book that I’ve been giving out to those who sign up for my email newsletter. And his wife, Kathryn, edited it. What a team!

I think this blog is going to be known as the “get deep into the psychological underpinnings of writing & publication” blog. Irene Watson of Reader Views introduced us to Jungian personality type. I added a bit, and now Lewis is going to introduce concepts that I learned originally in graduate school in counseling.

Knowing these concepts is very important: They’re operating in your buyers’ minds and souls (and yours) whether you know it or not. Better to know it. But don’t worry! Lewis Agrell makes them user friendly!

Lewis has been kind enough to let me illustrate the blog post with some of his covers. And now, here’s Lewis Agrell on book cover design:


In my estimation, the best covers are the ones that are the most beautiful. Billions of dollars are spent every year in advertising, fashion and manufacturing to infuse more and more beauty. Why? Because beauty attracts the eye. That’s why the most beautiful models, actresses, cars, houses and boats cost the most  money. Beauty is a precious, treasured commodity. Beauty has specific qualities. These qualities are harmony, balance, unity, synthesis, and refinement. Designers struggle to make the colors and design elements (fonts, photos, illustrations, and other graphic elements) work in such a way that the greatest beauty is attained.


KILLROD The Cross of Lorraine Murders. Cover by Lewis Agrell. Simple, elegant design employing archetypes––the cross and circle, which also looks like a moon.

KILLROD The Cross of Lorraine Murders. Cover by Lewis Agrell. Simple, elegant, & beautiful design employing archetypes––the cross and circle, which also looks like a moon. Love this, too.


Attributes of the Designer

Why are some designers better than others? This is not a simple question to answer. Designers must be trained in the basics of graphic design, particularly color theory. The other qualities that are necessary are:

  1. Experience (it helps to have tried many different approaches to design work, and learned what does, and does not, work)
  2. Intelligence—reading as much as possible about the industry is very helpful, because it is important to stay current, not only with the latest design movements and techniques, but also the tools of the trade (computers and software).
  3. Worldly awareness: it helps to know what is going on in the world, because world events are often reflected in design work. Witness particularly the dynamics of the sixties and the seventies, when many social shifts occurred. Designers and illustrators exploded with new ways of working, as a reflection of the dynamism of the period.
  4. Sensitivity. A designer must be sensitive to the material with which he/she is working, as well as to the needs, desires, and expectations of the client.

“As he thinketh…so is he”

An individual’s consciousness can vary tremendously. Wherever a person places the bulk of his attention will indicate the level of awareness. People are generally focused either physically, emotionally, or mentally. It is best for a designer to have as high an awareness level as possible.

Why is this critical?  Because a designer, or any creative person, cannot create beyond his or her level of awareness. When a high level of awareness is attained, that individual also has a connection to the lower levels, having passed through them, at some point in his or her maturation.

For example, a designer who is entirely focused on the physical realm, would not do well with a project focused on matters of the heart. A designer who is swept up in the world of emotions, would not do well with a project that has deep philosophical leanings.

In the mental realm, there are three areas of focus:

  • The lowest is the subconscious. Designers focused on this level create work that is very dark and mysterious—perhaps even very ugly and horrifying—and certainly distorted and misshapen. The primary color in their palette is black.
  • The next mental level is that of the concrete mind. This is the realm of logic and reasoning. This is the area of scientists and mathematicians. The design solution from an artist focused on this level will be very balanced and harmonious. The Golden Ratio, or Divine Proportion (approximately 1.618) might be very important for a designer on this level of consciousness. Someone who has a mental focus labors very carefully to determine a proper approach, utilizing logic, reasoning and analysis.
  • The highest level is known as the superconscious. In this level, symbolism is very important to the designer. Also, the designer will use a palette of very bright, cheerful, and uplifting colors. The keys to identifying designers who work on this level are a) their work reflects a wide variety of creativity or understanding; and b) they generally “know” immediately what the best solution will be for various projects. The “Eureka!” moment is very common for these designers. They will usually have a vivid mental image in mind before a person finishes explaining a concept to them. They think very quickly.

Many designers specialize in one particular area. This is because they have a strong physical, emotional, or mental strength, and design in that area.


"The Money Belt" I love this cover: clean, catchy, powerful. Does the job!

"The Money Belt" This is not a "grunge" cover. Great for mass market book. I love this cover: clean, catchy, powerful. Does the job!


The “grunge” look

If beauty is so important, why is there a “grunge” movement? The reason for this may be a temporary backlash to the “perfection” that can be created by computers. A world saturated with the unwavering perfection that computers are capable of creating can become a bit maddening to designers who like to put a more human touch to their work, so designers are fighting against the coldness of computers with “grungy” designs—those that appear as though they are not created from the computer, even thought the computer remains an indispensable tool for production.

This will become overused and will be rejected in time, in the same way that the psychedelic look passed away at some point in the early seventies. Great beauty will always be the sine qua non for designers. Deviations from beauty are only a temporary stylistic meandering. For example, ugliness will never gain a foothold in auto manufacturing because of the importance of high volume sales. When one particular car was created that people thought was not beautiful (the Edsel, 1958), the car sales were dismal. Car manufacturers don’t want a repeat of that noted failure.

What catches the eye besides beauty? Newness and uniqueness. An example of this is reflected in the story of the designer who needed to create a new cereal box to be displayed in grocery stores. He saw that all of the boxes had bright, vibrant colors. So, what did he chose to do? He created a cereal box that was mostly white. This “non-color” stood out from the rest of the boxes on the shelves, gaining that valuable eye-catching quality.


"Mediterranean Madness"  Cover by Lewis Agrell. In a genre cover, the designer must give readers what they expect. Wow, and good design.

"Mediterranean Madness" Cover by Lewis Agrell. In a genre cover, the designer must give readers what they expect. Wow, and good design.


Genre design

There are genres of books that have a “standard look,” that the buyer expects to see, for example, romance novels. All purchasers of romance novels want to see an image of a very strong, handsome, romantic yet masculine man embracing a beautiful woman on the cover of the book. To deviate from this “formula” is to risk loss of sales.

The same is true with fantasy novels. The buyers want to see a careful rendering of a dragon, or some such fanciful creature. Wouldn’t it be odd to see a biography without a painting or photo of the person about whom the book was written? The challenge for the designer, when dealing with these genres, is not a simple one. He/she must create something similar, yet unique and powerful.

How to pick a designer for your book

The easiest way is to examine the designer’s website and see if there is a style that is similar to what you imagine for your book. If you like what the designer has done, but don’t see something that you are looking for, simply send an email to the designer and ask if he/she has done anything similar to what you have in mind. Very often, the designer will have work that is not on the website.

If you still have doubts about the artist’s ability to create what you want, you can always hire the artist to do a concept sketch. If you are less than happy with the concept sketch, you can then either ask for another sketch, listing your desires, or you can thank the designer for his work (be sure to send a check for the hard work!) and then move on to another designer.

Designing your own cover

Don’t do it. That’s my answer to all writers who want to design their own cover. You have put a lot of energy into your book. You want the cover to reflect as much energy and power as your carefully groomed text. The person who can provide that energy and power is someone who is trained in graphic design.

Graphic designers have spent years, or decades, perfecting their art.Keep in mind that they spend eight hours a day, five days (or more) a week, twelve months a year, year in and year out, working to perfect their craft. They have tried and failed, so they know what doesn’t work. They have succeeded, and their work has been tested in the marketplace.

Simply put, they know what they are doing.

You wouldn’t rewire own your house yourself; you’d hire a professional electrician. The same goes for book cover design: Hire a professional. Sure, it can be expensive, but the extra “oomph” that you get in the professional design may translate into an increase in the number of books sold, simply because people are attracted to and impressed with the cover design! To sell the most books, save your pennies and hire the best graphic designer that you can afford. You’ll be grateful that you did when you see the results.

Please, don’t take my word for it. Talk to authors who have used professional designers to create their covers. You might be surprised by what they say.


"No Sisters Sisters Club", an engaging cover for a Young Adult book.

"No Sisters Sisters Club", an engaging cover for a Young Adult book.

Lewis Agrell has been an award-winning professional designer and illustrator for thirty years. He worked as the Chief Artist for the New York Times Company at its largest regional newspaper for ten years. He and his wife, Kathryn (a writer/editor) are the principal owners of The Agrell Group, a graphic design/creative writing firm, located in Prescott, Arizona. To contact them: or   Phone: 928.445.7038.

From Sandy Nathan: It’s been a privilege to share Lewis’s thoughts and words with you. Here’s a surprise. You may think that book covers of this quality must be very expensive. Not so. Lewis’s covers––front, back, spine––usually run between $500 and $1,200. You may want to consider him for your next book.

"Shades of Truth" A provocative one piece cover for a mass market book.

"Shades of Truth" A provocative one piece cover for a mass market book.

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