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Monday, December 31, 2007

Setting an Intention

It's that annoying time of year: New Year's. When people grown and moan as they make their goal lists.

Doesn't have to be that way. There's an easier and more effective method. It's called setting an intention. I've discussed this before but it needs reiterating.

Setting an intention is more than simply semantics. Words are powerful and when you set an intention, you're saying "I intend" not "my goal is" which is static. Which is somewhere in the future. Whereas "I intend" is an active verb. "I take action." And unlike a goal, it's not possible to fail with setting an intention. You're intending, you're acting, but what will happen due to your actions is in the future and not in your control. So setting an intention means you've already succeeded.

Let me start with my intention: I intend to write the first book of my new trilogy in 2008. See? Simple. And having stated that, I'm already thinking and planning of how to make that possible, without the pressure of failing a goal.

So, readers, what is one intention you have for the new year, hmm?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Embracing Change Redux for Creative People

The last of the Christmas photos.

It's beginning to feel a lot like time to take down the Christmas decorations. It may seem early for some, but this all part of embracing change. That can be the glory of the season: Christmas and the holiday season is so dramatic, so extreme, followed by January. Big change.

Many people fight that change. Somehow, if only Christmas went on forever...so they put up lights in September and don't take the lights down until Valentine's Day. This is one way of attempting to stop change.

Another is rigidly insisting on traditions. I know someone who, when she moved into a new house, took photos the first Christmas season so that everything could be placed in exactly the same way the next year, and the next, and the next.

It's as if though people believe that re-creating the situation will re-create the experience. This isn't possible. Christmas last year was different than this year and it will be different next year. Change is inevitable.

And not only accepting but embracing that simple fact releases enormous amounts of stress. In fact, it makes it impossible to "ruin Christmas," because it's only that year's Christmas. So what if the lamb roast is still frozen and takes forever to cook? So what if the Christmas gifts don't arrive in time? Or somebody's ill and doesn't come to dinner? That's the experience of that particular Christmas.

And by celebrating the differences, enjoying the change, a whole world of options and choices opens up. If we're not trying to re-create an experience, we're free to create a new experience. If we're not cemented into traditions, we're free to pick and choose which tradition we celebrate this year--or create new traditions.

And that's just with the Christmas season--think of the plethora of ideas that would flood forth if we just remember--it's always changing and always will. Perhaps that's the only constant.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve


Here's a touch of Christmas Cheer.

Tomorrow, I'll be being creative in the kitchen for Christmas dinner. So wanted to wish the wonderful blog world:

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Recipe and Names


Amazing what you can do with a cell phone these days.


English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. One of the problems with English is all the imprecise names. Of which this recipe is an example.

This is a recipe for Popovers, which is a misnomer as they don't pop over. This is also a Yorkshire Pudding recipe, and for this Idaho gal, they're not pudding either (whether or not the original recipe comes from Yorkshire, I don't know).

1 cup fat-free milk or soy milk
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour (can use unbleached flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites or egg substitute 1/2 cup

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Generously coat 6 large metal or glass muffin molds with cooking spray. Heat the muffin molds in the oven for 2 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the milk, flour, salt and egg whites. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Fill the heated muffin molds 2/3 full. Bake in the top part of the oven until golden brown and puffy, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tips for success: Beat mixture until fluffy. Pour batter immediately and quickly into heated muffin molds and slam into oven.

Yummy plain or with the traditional gravy, or even as a roll with jam, honey, etc. Freezes well.

So why can't we call these rolls, which is what they are? Or does that mean something else in another part of the U.S. or Great Britain or?


Monday, December 17, 2007

Emotional Writing, the Cons

What, you may ask, is a Christmas photo doing on an entry about the cons of emotional writing?

On the left, the small glass container has always been in my life and part of my Christmas. It started out as a pine candle that was burned every Christmas eve. When I was four, I was allowed to use a kitchen match and light the candle, my first really grown up act ever, ever. I remember the brilliance of the flame, the heat of it licking near my fingertips, the pride of the accomplishment.

I could write pages about my memories of that one item. But I won't. Why? Because it is particular to me. Family stories don't constitute fiction. Sometimes that line gets blurred and what should only be a dairy or journal entry ends up being stretched too thin to become "a story."

Which brings up the major con of emotional writing. Jim of The Truth About Lies commented in the previous post: Many time I have written a poem as a direct emotional response to certain events but what I have noticed is that the closer the writing is to the event in general the poorer the quality of the piece is.

Good point, Jim. And the bigger the event the more distance is needed. In my workshops, I've run into this problem over and over. What's happened isn't fiction. Fiction is not only retelling a story, it needs more. It needs a story arc and resolution. "But it really happened," beginning writers wail--and that's the problem.

And if the event is large enough, the writer may never be able to escape the confines of the emotion. In my candle-lighting event described above, I can use my memories to heighten a moment in a piece of fiction. But some events are too large, too strong to use so specifically.

That having been said, the pros outweigh the con.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Emotional Writing Pros and Cons


The snow makes it feel like Christmas...

The responses to my blogger friend Nancy's question about Christmas stories brought this topic up for me. Because the comments and stories were wide-ranging and passionate. Full of emotion. Emotional writing.

So what are the pros of emotional writing? Writing that comes from the gut, or from the heart, a visceral place, instead of the head?

One, strength from passion. What we care about we can write about. And what we write has immediacy. It possesses the power of our remembrance--emotionally charged writing is redolent with the senses, taste, smell, touch.

And the passion often comes through in the writing, catching the reader in a world of words. In my workshops I suggest to brand new writers that they write about something that truly mattered to them. It never matters how small or large the experience they write about, the writing is riveting.

So, when have you emotionally written? What has been your experience? What has been the result.

Next post, the cons of emotional writing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tagging--I'm tagged

Nancy P at Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life tagged me.

These are the rules:
1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.2) Share 7 facts about yourself.3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Here are my facts:

1. My favorite breed of dog is the basenji. I'm on my second one and don't know if I'll be up for a third (tough, independent, somewhat crazy breed).

2. I can still chew my own toenails while they are still on my toes, but choose not to do so.

3. Sad songs on the radio make me cry, which can make driving very difficult.

4. Although I grew up in ski country, I prefer to ice skate. Virtual treason.

5. I adore doing things I've never done before. Last year, I did Thanksgiving (the works) for the first time. This year, for Christmas, I'm doing a lamb roast (anybody have a recipe?).

6. I'm a natural red-head, which means, according to some scientists, 2 things: I'm the last of the genetic material of Neanderthals and I'm about to go extinct.

7. For three months, once, I was a vegan. I kept waking up smelling meat with my stomach growling. After I read that the Dalai Lama, on the advice of his doctors, ate meat, I went back to being an omnivore.

Ah, now to tag other bloggers. Unfortunately, I'm fairly new to this blog world so can only think of one person who I know well enough to tag, and know probably hasn't been tagged recently: Kathy at Well Placed Words. Other fellow bloggers, if you'd like to be tagged by me, let me know!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Practising Gratitude for Creative People, Part 3


When it's this kind of weather...


I'm grateful for a fire.

So why practice gratitude? Why be thankful all the time, not just during the holidays, or at other "required" times. And why are those that practice, practice, practice, the most creative?

Studies have long shown that those who practice being thankful are the most happy. On the Authentic Happiness site there's even a gratitude questionnaire. But what does that have to do with being creative?

One of the main, and most important, parts of creativity is problem solving. Coming up with various and multiple ideas is one major part of creating. Creating problems and more problems and then solving them in interesting ways is the work of writers.

When we practice being aware of our gifts, our fortune, our good luck, then it is far easier to come up with ideas. Or conversely, have you noticed when you focus on your misfortune, how it can be almost impossible to problem solve? Or even have any ideas? All there is, is the difficulty, the flaw, the bad luck. It looms large. But remember one thing you're grateful for, no matter how small, and opportunities open up.

So, when has gratitude given you an idea, a solution, or even a wonderful problem?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Practising Gratitude for Creative People, Part 2


Amazing how Christmas lights resemble an abstract painting.

There's a lot of thankful people expressing gratitude. My blogging friend Beth just blogged about it. My other blogging friend Kathy at Well Placed Words has recently done the same. In fact, if memory serves me right, many of my fellow writers often express their thanks (and eloquently as well).

So, for part 2, I'd like to thank a few of my fellow bloggers for their excellent blogs and superb support: Nancy at Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life, with her great ability to start up a conversation in her comments, Jim with his The Truth about Lies, with his sharp insights into writing and The Muse at Inspired Day by Day for her fabulous tips about blogs and marketing.


These are a tiny sampling of a few great blogs and a mini-taste of the excellent writing community out there. I don't have the time and possibly not the space to mention everyone...

What are a few of your favorites? And if it yours, well mention it!

Next post (part 3), why I know that the creative people who are best at creating are also the most grateful.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Gratitude for creative people, Part 1

This kind of a day requires


This much delightful light.

Sometimes we ignore the simple. The obvious. As in, oh no, it's a dreary awful December day. Instead of, it's a December day, so the lights are so bright.

What are you grateful for, today?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Performance Anxiety for Creative People...

...or how to freak out in one easy lesson.

This has come up a lot for me this week as next Wednesday I take an exam. An exam that, when I'm being reasonable I know:
1. Is about a subject I'm interested in and know a lot about.
2. I've studied for and used all the materials to study and...
3. Is only 125 questions that I only have to get 70% correct and THEY ARE ALL MULTIPLE CHOICE!

So, my question today: why such anxiety? Why do creative people freak out with any sort of test, new situation, or challenge?

Is it because we can imagine any number of scenarios? We can catastrophize to our heart's horror? Or a simpler reason: creative people deal with a lot of rejection--and failing a test is one form of rejection?

Or, dear readers, is it something else entirely?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tomorrow...

Hope this isn't your chair at the Thanksgiving Table!

With my luck, it might just be mine!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Successful Recipe for Success with Recipe

First snow fall of the season.

What better time to post a fun, fast recipe? A recipe that fosters creativity? Because it's amendable to amendments.

Hummus: Version 1:

1 can garbanzos (chick peas)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste.
Drain can of garbanzos. Process with all ingredients until smooth. Eat.

This is the simplest version of hummus I know. It's tasty and versatile: use as a spread or condiment on bread, crackers or chips.

The more traditional version of Hummus:

1 can garbanzos
1 tablespoon tahini
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
pepper and salt to taste

Drain can of garbanzos. Process with all ingredients until smooth. Eat. It's the tahini that gives the hummus its traditional flavor in this recipe.

Now for the fun: ENDLESS VARIATIONS WITH THIS FORGIVING BEAN SPREAD!

Here's a few:
Peanut butter (smooth, unsweetened) instead of the tahini or olive oil.
Real butter instead (very creamy).
3 tablespoons nutritious yeast.
Add parsley, dried or fresh.
Add sesame seeds.
Add half a cup of chopped green onion before processing.
Add cumin.
Add sour cream.
Add Mexican seasoning.
Italian seasoning.
Curry spice.
Use white beans instead of chick peas.

Okay, I could go on. And on. And on. I can attest that all these variations are quite tasty.

Readers, put your creative caps on--what variations can you think of? Hmm?






Monday, November 19, 2007

Successful Recipe for Success

Everyone has traditions. This can be a good thing. Or not.

When it's a good tradition it will be supportive and fun. When it's strict, inflexible, rigid-then it's another straitjacket for the spirit. Especially creative spirits.

Today, as an example, I'm thinking of food. More specifically, holiday eating. Tradition dictates that the only way to make a holiday meal is fill in the blank with your mother's/grandmother's/great-grandmother's recipes here. No variations. No substitutions (even if you have food allergies). Or else.

Or else the holiday meal is ruined. A disaster. A catastrophe.

Why? Now a favorite recipe can be a joy and a pleasure if we aren't strict about it. Our eating habits have changed. People have food allergies. Foods that were not available to to our great-grandmothers are plentiful for us (lucky, fortunate us).

So, why are we so inflexible about holiday food? Because it's food? And food evokes such an emotional response? Or because of that rigid word "tradition"? Or because it is "holiday food"?

What do you think, readers?

Tomorrow, a fun recipe that will demonstrate how being creative with food can spark creativity. After all, Thursday is Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Squeeze Phenomenon

This will be a short post. Because it has to be. Why? Because next week is Thanksgiving.

Every year I promise myself the holidays won't be stressful. Every year they are. And this year, I don't get why, for me. This year it's not at my home. We're not traveling, except a couple of miles. And I'm having Thanksgiving with people I love, and even more importantly, really enjoy their company.

So why the stress? Memories of past catastrophes? Trying to get all the work done beforehand so that I can take an extra day off? Tradition?

Or is it something more subtle? Perhaps the grief for those who no longer share Thanksgiving with us? And the realization that we have so much, so much to be grateful for, while others have little or nothing? Perhaps it is a bittersweet holiday?

Readers, what do you think?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Writing and the Telling Detail

A comment from Jim Murdoch on the last post got me to thinking about the telling detail. What is a telling detail? One thing that pulls the reader into the experience of the story, one thing that creates the emotional connections to the writing.

An example is in Stephen King's Pet Semetary where a father, ever so gently, wipes the grave mold from his dead child's cheek. Intense. Unforgettable. Does a reader stop reading at this point? No way.

The grave mold growing on the child's cheek is a telling detail. It can be any specific detail. It can be a sight, sound, touch, taste or smell. It can be a specific thought or action. One thing that has tremendous meaning, almost a shorthand connection.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Remembrance and Writers

Yesterday was Veterans Day. A day to remember and thank all our veterans for their selfless sacrifices. Without which the USA wouldn't be.

My father was a WWII Captain of B-17s and an instructor during the Korean war. So yesterday and today, I've been remembering.

He almost never spoke of his experiences in WWII, but the couple of times he did, my father's recollections were redolent with detail. The stories were of times that stood out during horrendous minutes, hours and days. With all the five senses described, the smells, sounds, sensations, sights and even the tastes of the experience.

As my father spoke, his experience came alive. I can remember these stories, vividly. My father was an artist and not a writer, but if he had written these stories down as he had told them, oh how powerful.

Now, when I'm reading and the writer "remembers" a story instead of only "relating" a story, then it's memorable for me as a reader. One way to write such memorable stories, use all the senses to re-create the experience.

There are others...fellow writers?

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Recipe for Creative People

A friend of mine is an excellent cook and has been for years. She can glance over a recipe that's she's never seen before and: see if it'd be a good recipe, see if it is a correct recipe that will work well, and tweak it so that it's better. Why can she do this? Because she loves to cook and does a lot of cooking.

Creative people can do the same, with whatever "follow your bliss" creative passion. Like my friend, the more we create, the better we get at creation. The more I write, the more I'm able to see if I've got a good recipe, see what's right and what needs to be tweaked.

As with any other skill, the more we practice, the better we become. I'm keeping that in mind as I work. And the 70 Days of Sweat helps keep me turning out pages! Who said: "You're not a writer until you've written a million words"?

How do you follow your bliss and keep following your bliss?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Rigid Writers are liars...

...when they say they're writers.

Yes, we all have our own brand of rigidity. What I'm talking about is seeking flexibility instead of remaining stiff, locked in, rigid.

Why? Because we exist in change. The more flexible--the better writing. Creative people exist in the world of ideas. We can't get those ideas if we have locked doors in our minds.

This has come to me because in the last three years every aspect of my life has changed. It's all different.

Yet some of my friends still struggle with my different life. They insist, sometimes vociferously, that nothing has changed. Or will ever change. That somehow it's exactly the same, in every way. Despite all evidence of change.

I get stuck in denial too, sometimes. The more I resist, the more difficult and exhausting life becomes. The more acceptance, the easier. Acceptance of the moment as being how it is, is the key for me.

Why? Is it fear of change? Desire to have things remain the same? That any change feels like a mini-death? Instead of a mini-birth?

Why do we resist what is happening every moment?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Balancing Humor

One of the things I did during my mini-vacation was read Joan Hess' Damsels in Distress, the latest in her Claire Malloy series. What impressed me the most was her ability to balance the humor inherent with human nature with murder, that most evil of crimes.

People are funny, killing is not. As a writer of mysteries, I work on this concept all the time. How to give a good experience where the reader will fall into my created world and not be bumped out by too much humor in the wrong place? Or too little in the right place?

Readers and fellow writers, any ideas?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rejuvenate & Renew


THE GEISER GRAND HOTEL IN BAKER CITY, OREGON

Above is a great hotel. Excellent for a mini-vacation. Which I've just returned from having, and having a great time. Now I'm rejuvenated and renewed. Meaning:

1. My thoughts, ideas and enthusiasm for my new w.i.p. is increased.
2. I'm more effective in my "day jobs" and complete those tasks more quickly.
3. My energy is up and much clearer.

All this from taking a couple of days off.

So, as another creative person, what do you do to rejuvenate and renew?


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pantser or Plotter: What kind of Writer are you?

The second lesson of 70 Days: I'm still a plotter, despite my desire to sit down and churn out a novel by the seat of my pants. Even when I possess a head full of the characters, the plot, all the elements, I get lost without a plan. I suppose this shouldn't be completely surprising as I have to Mapquest everywhere I go, or else never get there.

Which are you? Do you need to outline? If so, are you like me and need a fairly complete outline? Or, are you one of the flying writers?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Keeping it in mind

The Seventy Days of Writing Sweat Challenge has already paid off for me, big time. My first huge lesson: Stay in the work! That's what makes it a w.i.p.! That is: a work in progress.

My w.i.p. that I'm working on for the 70 Days is a book that has ached to get onto the page. A book that I have many, many notes for. Notes on characters, snatches of dialog, plot points, a couple of scenes, etc.

So what's the difficulty? Getting into the "mode" of the w.i.p. on a daily basis--it's waited for long enough that the first rush/impetus/motivation to write it down is gone. I'm beginning to retrieve it, but it takes effort. And since I set the novel aside several times--that's my habit.

Stay in the work!

What do you do with a project that you've set aside and now have returned to? What works for you? What doesn't work?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Creative people and technology

Oh, technology, such a delight. When it works. And usually it does.

I love, adore, rejoice in living in the 21st Century.

Why? This last week my dishwasher broke. Now, I know how to wash dishes by hand. Easy. Simple. Quick? NO. Dishwashing by hand takes time and energy. Quite a bit more than using a dishwasher.

Time and energy that I could use creating, writing, playing. Now, my Buddhist teachings would gently suggest I dish wash in the moment and learn the lesson there. Sometimes I have done that. It helps. I'm too caught in illusion to do it every time, for all those dishes.

So here's to the modern life!

What's your favorite bit of modernity?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Life, the moment, and friends

A couple of nights ago, at a delightful, wondrous event for a local literary society, I received some sad news. A friend of mine has dementia and is in a nursing home.

How did I have to learn this secondhand? Because this friend, an excellent, talented artist, was so engaged with life that I rarely saw her. She traveled all over the world, sometimes alone, sometimes for conferences and workshops. She created a successful business from scratch in the early seventies and continued to work that business, successfully. Brilliant, creative, intelligent. A bit of a health nut. And only seventy, too young by today's standards for such an illness.

So, being in the process of my own self-employment, I didn't realize 18 months had passed without contact. Not long, in terms of our friendship of 25 years. But long enough.

What have I remembered? We only have this moment. Reach out to loved ones, friends and family. And hug.

Monday, October 15, 2007

70 Days of Sweat Writing Challenge

I've signed up for the 70 Days of Sweat Writing Challenge. I considered signing up for NaNoWriMo, but for my purposes the 70 days is better.

Why? For several reasons:

1. I just finished my w.i.p. (which isn't in progress any more) and it is easy to get caught in the WAIT mode. Wait for a response, wait to see what people say, wait until I feel ready for another project, wait until...you get the idea.

2. This new project has been rattling around in my head, screaming to get out for years. Others have muscled in before it. It's time.

3. 70 Days is longer than NaNoWriMo. This time around, I need the extra days. (Maybe NaNoWriMo next year?)

4. 70 Days has "wriggle room," 23 days off. Since it's the holidays, I need the days off.

5. It's wonderful, and works for me, to have a goal to push against.

Have you ever taken on a writing challenge like either one of these? Either a formal one, or an informal one? Did it work for you?

What do you think of these challenges? Good idea? Bad idea?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Self-Employment Paid Vacation Time for Writers and Other Creative People

Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?

It's not. Us creative types are self-employed. And like most self-employed people, we work. All the time. No breaks.

This is a mistake. A big one.

An understandable one--but unlike other small businesses, restaurants, stores, where the owners can exhaust themselves establishing and maintaining the business without destroying the business in the process, creative people need time off.

Why? To refresh, renew, re-energize our creativity. Without it, we run the risk of running on empty. Creativity is something that needs down time.

So it is paid vacation time when we take time off. Paid in terms of being more creative.

What do you do to take a break?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Are You an Eclectic, Eccentric, Esoteric Reader?

If not, why not?

As writers we are all avid readers. If not a reader who reads, then not a writer (I'm paraphrasing Stephen King).

BUT are you an triple-e reader? Do you read a huge variety of different material? Or are you in a reading rut? Do you only read your favorite genres, styles, authors?

Okay, we all get in ruts. I confess to my own: mysteries, thrillers with fantasy for spice. I read my favorite authors of which there are many: Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, J. A. Konrath, Terry Pratchett, Nancy Pickard, Charlaine Harris, Joan Hess, Lee Child, John Sandford, Rhys Bowen and Carl Hiaasen, to name a very few. My list seems eclectic, doesn't it?

And yet, and yet, they all are of a certain "flavor." I don't delve into women's fiction, literary fiction, hard science fiction and men's adventure fiction. Much less the writings of other nationalities, save now Japan (explanation below).

I now believe that's a mistake. I've been reading manga and I'm surprised by how a truly different form of writing has impacted my writing. It's expansive, sometimes mind-boggling, to read "outside the box of the our usual covers."

As with my exercise classes, something new and different creates all sorts of new connections in the brain.

So: what are your favs? What ruts are you in? What would you like to read to break out?

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Writer is NOT an Island.

Or even an archipelago. Okay, bad joke. And the title is a bit of a cliche.

But cliches happen because they are so often true.

We write for ourselves, for our passion first, but then:
We write to be read.
We need Readers.

Without family to encourage and support me, I never would have gotten as far as I have in my writing career. I would have written, it's as necessary as breathing to me, but without my family's love those rejections might have been insurmountable.

Without friends and fellow writers to read, and re-read, my work I never would have improved as much as I have. Writing is all subjective, and a variety of opinions is an absolute necessity.

Without editors and agents (that I met at conferences), I never would have had the critiques of professionals. The input was invaluable.

Unless the writing is a diary or personal journal (and even then, isn't there the ghost of a reader?) we need our readers.

What are some of the ways you receive support, encouragement and education as a writer?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cold Weather Healthy Recipe for Creative folks

What is another recipe doing on a blog about creativity and writing? Simple.
Cooking is creative.
This recipe is easy and fun to make.
This recipe saves time and money.
This recipe is healthy and versatile.

Sold?

Fruit Compote:

1 can cherry pie filling
1 can pineapple chunks
2 apples

Chop up apples into bite-size pieces. Mix all ingredients in a baking pan. Heat in oven at 350 degrees.
Bake for 45 minutes.
Done.

Uses:
Tasty alone.
Yummy with ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, or whipped cream.
Delicious on pancakes or waffles.
Delightful on short bread or plain cake.

Variations:
Too numerous to list, here are a few. Be creative and think of your own!

When baked, add walnuts, almonds or any nuts of your choice.
Add raisins.
Add cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Or cardamon. Vanilla works too.
Use different fruits: blueberries, pears, apricots, etc. (Not bananas.)

Do you have any great easy recipes? Do you find you become more creative when you create food? Love to cook? Hate it?

If you try this recipe let me know how you like it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Meditate to Create: Flames


SIMPLE, BEAUTIFUL, SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL

A comment from my good friend Kathy of Well Placed Words reminded me of this easy, powerful meditation. This is another meditation that works in 3 minutes (or more).

Sit relaxed. Focus on the flame. This means look at the flame, don't stare. Relax your eyes. Pay attention to the flame. Breathe. Let the flame fill your mind. Breathe.

Simple, beautiful, simply beautiful.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A writer's best friend: a computer

Why? Simple. Search and find.

Search and find what? After the first draft, after the second draft, after the third draft, when you w.i.p. is almost ready to go out, then:

Search and find all those annoying words that creep into writing:

But
And
As
-ing words
-ly words

As you write, keep a list of your favorite words that you use over and over and over.

Some of my favorites are: whirled, possessed and glanced. What are yours?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wanted: Conflict and Tension for Writers

My good friend Kathy on her blog Well Placed Words had an excellent entry about sagging middles. Which, like all of her entries, got me to thinking about writing. And now specifically about tension and conflict.

So here are five ways to increase tension in a manuscript.

1. Have your main character struggle with decisions. And the bigger the decision the bigger the tension. Moral dilemmas are best.

2. Pose questions that aren't answered right away. The reader will continue reading to discover the answers.

3. Have your characters possess opposing goals.

4. Clue your reader into something that the main characters are unaware of, but that will have a great impact when revealed.

5. Subplots: If each subplot has a tension-filled story arc as well as the main plot, the reader will be pulled through the book.

What are some ways you create/maintain tension in your writing?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Meditation fast and easy #3

This is wonderful for focusing the mind:

Pick an object that possesses beauty. The lovely Navajo lady in the illustration above is a ceramic piece by R. C. Gorman that I have used when doing this meditation.

Focus on the object. Pay attention. Clear your mind of all else but the beauty. See with all of your being.

This meditation is a lot of fun and often easier to begin a meditation practice with as the mind has something lovely to focus upon.

So, here's three quick and easy meditations.

Do you have a favorite meditation? Do you have a meditation practice? If so, what have you discovered by meditating? If you don't have a practice, why not? What stops you?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Meditate=creativity, Meditation #2

Mantra meditation:

Pick a word that has meaning for you. Classics are: ohm, Rama, and Christian prayers "Mother Mary, etc."

Sit relaxed and with each relaxed breath, breathe your mantra. When you find yourself forcing the word or playing with the word or your mind drifting so you're just listing your mantra (all this will happen) gently return.

Remember: There's no right way or wrong way to meditate! You can't do it wrong! It's a tool to help still the mind so all those lovely creative ideas can come.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Three minute meditation #1

Cats are naturals at being in the moment!

First meditation style: This is a classic:

Count your breaths. Inhale on one and exhale on and and inhale on two and... or vice versa. Count up to 3 or 4 and then start over.

Focus on breathing gently and calmly. Focus.

Sit comfortably. Relax. Focus on the breath.

Relax your eyelids. But it is not necessary to shut your eyes. You can if you want.

When your focus drifts, return to the breath.

Easy and difficult at the same time. When you first start, you may want to use a timer if you tend to "watch the clock." As you gain the habit of this meditation, you can do it anytime, anyplace, standing or sitting.

It's as simple as breathing.





Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Meditate to create

What a gorgeous smile.

People talk about the benefits of meditation all the time. Here's another benefit: it increases creativity.

It creates flow. Blood flow. Thought flow. A slipstream of calm.

So, why doesn't everybody meditate? I believe it's because of one main reasons:
We think we have to do it right, do it daily, do it for a long time and...

...sit on those cushions cross-legged.

None of this is true.

Three minutes--a mini-meditation--every other day works. Works incredibly. Tremendously.

Next: a couple of meditation styles that can be done in 3 minutes.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Editing on a deeper level

And it's online! Margie Lawson gives great workshops on writing. And with her online classes you don't even have to leave home!

This upcoming class is Deep Editing. I've taken a couple of workshops from Margie, both in person and online. She has a way of teaching that makes it easy and simple and almost sub-conscious to incorporate her tools into your writing.

October is crazed for me, but I'm seriously considering signing up...

Unique and universal, the struggle to be both

An excellent post over at my friend Kathy's blog Well Placed Words got me to thinking about this difficult subject. Her entry is about knowing your audience and writing for them--always a good idea.

A well-known author expanded on that idea: what you want to write is "unique and universal." I can't recall the name of the writer...it applies to all creative work, however.

Think about a favorite novel, or piece of any artwork. What draws you to the work? What keeps you there? It's unique, there's nothing else like the composition or the characters or the subject. Yet, it resonates.

How to be unique and universal? We're all both. The skill to develop is to recognize and use our uniqueness to be universal. Not easy. Worth the work.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Blogrush--what do you think?

Hi all,

There's a new element on my page and I need your input. I'm fairly new to blogging. And "Blogrush" is new.

So, I'm giving it a trial run. One of the things I'm concerned about: I believe that writer's blogs are for our readers. Yes, writers, too. But as a reader, I've discovered great books by reading blogs by different authors--and not necessarily that particular author's blog! My concern is that the rush box is too narrow in scope...maybe.

What do you think?
Do you like the little list that you can click on and surf?
Or is it too distracting? Or just another element on the page that you ignore?
Is it useful? or not? Why or Why not?

Comments welcome and encouraged!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Saving Time, Saving Money and a Recipe

Everybody wants to do both. Of course. Seems impossible? Here's one SECRET:
Follow your own bliss and you'll do both, automatically.

For example, I love to bake. I do it often. I have little time to indulge my love--so I've found and use the recipes that are quick and easy. Still, it amazes me how quick the recipes are to make and how very little they cost, usually pennies a serving. And delicious.

All this from indulging myself in a passion.

Here's one quick and easy recipe that makes cookies that everyone raves about:

No Baking Chocolate Oatmeal cookies:

2 C. granulated sugar
8 tbls butter (1 stick) (or margarine)
1/2 c. milk (can be soy or low-fat)
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1 teas. vanilla
3 c. oats (quick best, can use old-fashioned, but cook longer)

In big pan (everything goes into one pan) combine sugar, margarine, milk and cocoa. Over medium high heat bring to a boil and cook for 6 minutes, stirring often.

(Now is the time for a mini-meditation on your current project.)

After six minutes, add vanilla and remove from heat. Stir in oatmeal and let set in saucepan 6 minutes. If old-fashioned oats, 9 minutes.

(Now is the time for you to run and write down your new ideas. If you do, set a timer!)

Drop by generous tablespoons onto wax paper. Leave alone (gooey but good if you eat now) until set up and then store in tight container.

Makes lots, freezes well, not unhealthy, remind people the cookies are full of fiber and not to eat too many at a time!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Friends

My dog and cat are best friends. They support each other. When my little dog became ill, my cat was the first to notice.

Without my friends, I wouldn't be almost finished with my w.i.p. I wouldn't be an editor of two magazines. My life would be empty. Instead its full.

So this entry is a BIG THANK YOU to all my friends!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Modeling for creative folks

There's a number of ways to model, all of them useful and fun. Including business models--I'll bet you didn't see that coming! But the most successful businesses are the by people that are creative and innovative and thrive in change.

There's a short, little quick read of a book titled The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin. And yes, it's all about business. So, why read it?

Because it's also about engaging your passion, being the best that you can be--and also realizing when you need to "let it go" and when you need to "keep on going." Don't we all struggle with that? And I believe all creative people perhaps "let it go" a little too early OR "keep on going" a little too long. Since every project is so close to the heart and so much a passion...a business model creates a tiny bit of objectivity.

Hint: If you step away from your current beloved, take a break (a small one) often you can return with renewed energy and enthusiasm and a touch of objectivity--and those "insurmountable" problems can be solved!

Monday, September 10, 2007

To Read or Not to Read?

This is a tough question for beginning writers--and the advice can be confusing.

One of the agent blogs: Caren Johnson, has a post on whether a writer should read or not. And that got me to thinking about the whole subject.

What works for me, so well, (so well that it has been an ongoing writing course): critical reading or critique reading. Donald Maass, another agent and the author of Writing the Breakout Novel, suggests strongly doing this. It does negate some of the pleasure of being a reader, because you're always working on your craft while reading--but it is such a valuable tool.

So, critique reading: when I read I pay attention to several different things: First and absolutely foremost is: Do I "stay in" a work of fiction? Do I continue to read, despite distractions? Despite needing to make dinner? Despite a work schedule? Despite it being 2 a.m.? If I have to put the book down do I find moments to snatch it up again and read a paragraph, or only a sentence? Critical reading means noticing when that happens and asking WHY? What has the writer done to keep me so engrossed? And what have they avoided doing (pages of only description, for example)?

Or, do I put the book down a lot and walk away? WHY? Why am I NOT compelled to read on? Sometimes this is the best teacher--what stops me? And horrors of horrors--when I don't finish a book, that's when to really think--what made me "give up" on a novel? Sometimes the answers surprise me.

But it's no surprise how valuable developing a "critiquing eye or eyes" while reading is. Margie Lawson in her fabulous workshops uses many examples of excellent writing, as does Donald Maass. When I first starting attending I used to think "That's great, but that author is a best-selling writer and I don't want to just imitate them!"

With "critique reading" there's no chance of inadvertent imitation and plenty of opportunity to learn better writing techniques!

TIP: After I read a novel, I sometimes go online and read the Amazon critiques--and learn that readers catch the same things as a writer does--another valuable lesson.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Common as dirt


Not a great photo, but I took it with my phone--ain't modern technology wonderful? And since this entry is about being okay with being okay, I figured it was a perfect picture--because there is no such thing!

And yet us creative types struggle every day with this--wanting to be perfect--or at least better than we think we are--or at least as good as what's in our heads. But if you're like me, if you're a painter, you're better than Rembrandt or Monet or Picasso, if you're a writer, you're better than Hemingway, Dickens and certainly Rowling! IN THE VISION OF THE WORK IN YOUR MIND!

Should we all strive long and hard to create the best that we can? Certainly! Should we use every tool we can discover to improve ourselves in the creative endeavor we love? Yes! Should we never release an imperfect creative piece that's common as dirt anyway? NO!

Because, like the photo above, everything is imperfect. Like the sunflower above, everything share a commonality. When I look at this photo, I smile. Not because it's perfect. Not because it is what I thought it would be when I took the photo.

It's lovely. I love sunflowers.

Friday, September 7, 2007

More on great sites

There are great sites on the net. There are horrid sites on the net. And everything in between. Like Wikipedia--the info can be completely accurate and well done--or not. So the net is an augment, an addition, another source.

And when it comes to creative endeavors--which is 100 % subjective anyway--proceed with all critical faculties going full bore!

That having been said: here's an inactive blog that is excellent for beginning writers with a finished or about-to-be finished first novel: Miss Snark, the Literary Agent. Miss Snark is famous, or infamous, depending on who you read, but either way, her archives (still available) are a guerrilla course in the world of agents and publishing. And whether you agree with her or not--vastly entertaining reading!

What sites have you discovered, good or bad, about this strange behavior: being creative?

TIP: Approach the net like you would a car salesman, caveat emptor, if it sounds too good to be true--then it isn't true. Anything goes on the net.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

When it's the end...

Okay, I couldn't resist. Since this entry is about endings or the end or the living end or...okay, okay, enough!

When is it the end? Or when is a creative project DONE? The short, simple answer is when the piece is sold. You no longer own it. However, that's a little too simplistic. When is it finished--or released to go before the "public?"

I've been thinking a lot about this for a couple of reasons: I'm getting close to needing to say "The End" on my w.i.p. and like everybody else, it can be hard to send my baby out into the cruel, cruel world. Also, I'm teaching a class in How to Edit the Novel at the True North Creative Learning Center and one of the major pitfalls of editing is never stopping. There's more than one tale of terror of a writer trashing a good work by over-editing, or a painter overpainting, or a sculptor cutting just a bit too much. So, knowing when to say, "the End" or "Done" or "Finished" is a skill to be cultivated.

How do you decide when a work is finished? Why?

HINT: One way to know the work is finished: you change it just to change it and sometimes change it back again! Let it go!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Blown, there's beauty

It's official, summer's over. Here comes the fall--I've always objected to the word "fall" for such a glorious season. After all, the roses in full bloom are so gorgeous. We exist in change.

Transitions need to be celebrated. I've notice that when we honor change, then it's easier, and more fun. When I get excited about a new season, then I'm more creative and focused. More in the moment.

Do you have a favorite season? Do you celebrate the changing of the seasons? If so, how?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Buddha Bless the Net

Okay, so the Buddha doesn't "bless" things like in the Christian world. But as a writer and a semi-Buddhist (I'm practicing, okay?) that's still my sentiment.

Because the Internet is such a great resource. News, knowledge, and camaraderie--all at our fingertips.

Before the Net, I couldn't have imagined having such riches. And having said that, here are a couple more great blog sites from fellow writers: Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life, a fun blog with lots of "writing-inspiring" posts by author Nancy Pickard and A Newbie's Guide to Publishing by J. A. Konrath--invaluable for the newcomer author who wants to sell the books--and who are these people who don't?

Remember the HINT: The Internet is great--and a great time loser--the first priority is to create! Everything else follows.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Expectations


What is a cat doing in a blog about expectations? Because sometimes what you expect is not what you get. And that can be a fabulous thing.

This is my cat, Baxter. This is the first cat who has ever owned me, my s.o. and the dog. When I first decided I wanted a kitty, since it was my first, I decided to get a little, i.e. small six-or-seven pound, cat from our local shelter. A short hair. I perused the shelter's online site and fell in love with the adorable, tiny face of the little kitty above. Out I drove to the shelter, carrier in hand...No, it is not a small window in the photo it is a large window. It took both hands and a lot of leg strength to haul my 18 pound new unhappy long-haired friend home in the carrier. He grumbled all the way home. I expected that he'd be quiet after he settled down, like other cats I know. He settled down and became much more vocal.

Only one of my expectations came true: there is a cat in my family. Am I upset? No. Disappointed? Not at all. Grateful? You bet.

Because Baxter is a character who fills my life with laughter and love. I didn't get what I expected. I didn't get what I thought I wanted. I got something better.

If I had refused to take Baxter because he didn't meet my expectations, I would have lost a lot. I try to remember that in my life.

What expectations do you have? What do you do when they're not realized--or realized in a way you didn't expect?

We all need a little help, sometimes a lot

This blog is about not going it alone. And how many great people with great ideas are available and ready to help. First up, blogs. Writers love to write and so many of them blog. So what? So the blogs (and I'll mention a few to get you started) are great free classes in writing for the beginning writer.

Here's the first two, because both have great posts up today specifically about free, great help and support for writers:

First Erica on her blog Erica Writes has a great post on storyboarding. Erica does a great job of explaining and illustrating with her own storyboard this useful writer's tool.

Second, Kathy on her blog Well Placed Words posts about writers' critique groups, another valuable tool in the writer's box.

More on the great blogging world later.

Do you have a beloved blog or two or twenty? Care to share?

Hint: Blogging is a world so remember, it's an adjunct to writing, a fun one, but not the writing itself.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Beauty and the barbs

A thistle, a thastle, a red and purple bastle--okay, my apologies!

It is a thistle, which are blooming everywhere. Most people believe them to be nasty ugly weeds. My dog thinks the fluff is delicious. I adore them.

Why? Because beauty always is barbed. Roses have thorns, actress have surgery, creative people have doubts and rejection.

Nobody gets one without the other--and when I remember that it makes it a little less painful when I get barbed by a rejection. Okay that's my philosophizing for today! Maybe for weeks!

What do you do when it stings?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Balance beams and falling off...

...and then getting right back on. Life is a balancing act--and from time to time we all fall off the beam.

I did this weekend. I taught a workshop--boy was that fun!--but because I don't teach workshops every weekend, I got a bit unbalanced. And then I fought that touch of mis-step (i.e. I didn't work on my w.i.p. on one day) and so I tumbled off the beam.

The solution? Yeah, you guessed it. I got right back on the beam. Not without rolling around on the mat a bit and a complaint or two.

What makes you fall off the beam? What helps you get back on?

SECRET: Nobody's perfect, everybody gets off-balance from time to time. Relax and get back on the beam as soon as you can.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dog Days


All sorts of cliches come to me : "let sleeping dogs lie,"" ah, the dog days of summer, ""when in doubt, nap."

But this post is really about transitions and how exhausting they are. August for me, is a transition time. And I've noticed how it is for most people: end of summer, hot days but touched in the mornings with a taste of to-come, school almost here. I have a friend who told me that Fall in Native American tradition really is the beginning of a new year--and that somehow makes perfect sense to me.

Transitions highlight, perhaps also increase the pace of, change. Time to get out the fall wardrobe, time to get ready for school, time to start thinking about the holiday season (which starts way too early these days--I've already seen Christmas decorations!). And no time to get it all done...

What helps me when I feel my knees buckle from fatigue? Acceptance. Acceptance that everything changes every moment. Acceptance that it can be difficult to "keep up" with everything in a transition--and perhaps unnecessary--so I wear white after Labor Day, so what? And acceptance that resistance, fighting a transition (more summer! more hot days! more vacation!) is more tiring and futile than acceptance.

What do you do to ease transitional times?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Why we need "blind readers"

Okay, I had an epiphany today--I discovered a "flaw" in my w.i.p. I put flaw in quotation marks because this one is big enough to drive all the semis delivering the last Harry Potter through, side by side. The problem is I developed, added to and changed the characters, after taking Donald Maass' Write the Breakout Novel Intensive workshop (excellent), which transformed relationships which meant that a plot point disappeared. Vanished. Gone and left behind a black hole.

I'm fortunate to have an excellent writers' group that I credit for much assistance and for most of my improvement of my writing. They didn't catch the plot hole. Why? Because they had read the earlier drafts, of course!

Hence the value of "blind readers." A term which always puzzles non-writers--do you have to translate into braille? Not unless the reader is literally (sorry, bad pun) blind. A blind reader is someone who has never read any draft or section of your w.i.p. When the draft is very, very close to final is when you have as many blind readers read it as possible.

The blind reader is a great resource. They catch all the things that a writer doesn't: plot failures big and small, character problems, where the novel works and where it doesn't (especially important). Blind readers are not your family, your close friends or a possible agent. Blind readers are best if they enjoy reading and read widely in your genre or lack of genre, but are fine just as long as they love to read. Writers are nice as well as blind readers, but sometimes writers are too much editors. Blind readers are the closest thing to objective that a writer can hope to find.

How to find a blind reader? I have a librarian friend who has a couple of friends. I have a writer friend who belongs to a book club and knows a couple of avid readers. Book clubs, librarians, writers that have friends--are you friendly with the clerks at a bookstore? When you find a blind reader, resist the urge to make a new friend. Explain how you truly are thick-skinned (a little white lie) and would love to hear their honest opinion. If it's not too long and involved, a short quick list of questions at the end of your w.i.p. is also useful: "Were you ever confused or lost or did you lose interest in any of title of book?" Keep your interaction brief with a blind reader so they don't become exhausted and use each only a few times.

HINT: Blind readers are gold and well worth searching for and finding.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A million facets

It's been a couple of months since I attended the magnificent, fun Murder in the Grove Conference.

Before the conference, Murder in the Grove provided a fabulous workshop by Margie Lawson on her editing system. Margie is a psychologist as well as a writer, so she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her workshops. It's been a couple of months, and I'm still discovering new insights and developing new skill sets from her workshop. Not only has my editing of my manuscript improved, but also my writing.

Why? That leads to the title of this entry. Creative pursuits are subjective and so there is a million ways of creating and a million ways of perceiving said creation. Taking an excellent workshop like Margie's is one way of shifting perception and gaining a touch of objectivity. It also provided a whole new "toolbox" of methods for faceting the diamond of my w.i.p. How's that for a mixed metaphor? And simply the work of a workshop forces all sorts of new connections with imagination.

Hint: Stuck in a rut? Feel like your creative endeavor is going nowhere at no pace? Take a fun workshop like one of Margie's (her classes are also available online and also excellent), or a class in something unique to you, or read a manuscript or critique (not criticize) a friend's endeavors. Use your imagination!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Of drafts blowing hot and cold

Woohoo! I've finished my almost-final draft of my w.i.p.! So, to use a metaphor to death: my first draft was the foundation, the walls and roof of my novel, this draft was finishing the outside and inside: painting, laying down tile and carpet, bathroom fixtures in, etc. And the next draft is moving in (the final tweaking draft).

Okay, that's goofy. But I've found that thinking of my w.i.p. this way helps me DETACH (a little) from my work. Which, in editing is extremely useful. Any subjectivity is sooo helpful. And difficult to achieve. I think of my novel as a structure where in the first draft, I can move the foundation, have more rooms or fewer rooms, and so on. In the second draft, I can change the paint color, the fixtures, the tile. The third and final draft: the house is in place, it just needs to become a home.

Secret: Whatever your creative endeavor, thinking of it in metaphorical terms often is useful for gaining a touch of subjectivity. Another example: a friend of mine is an artist, a painter, who thinks of her canvas as a film--the different scenes are the paint she lays down as she progresses.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sustainable Happiness


Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?

And yet, I see examples of sustained happiness all the time. People who exist in this world, who have problems and difficulties (and even tragedies) who continue in a general state of joy and contentment.

Why? This is the sort of oddball goofy philosophy that I obsess on close to a birthday and here are a few of my answers (not mine alone, these are answers that other people have mentioned time and again that I have noticed WORK in my life).

Practicing gratitude, all the time. This includes the "little" stuff. Which is why there is a photo of roses from my rose garden. The roses sustain my happiness.

Focus on now. Sounds so simple. And maybe that's why it's difficult. But I've noticed the people who live in the moment and when I live in the moment, that's where happiness resides. Those who are always waiting: until the children grow up, until they are in a relationship or out of a relationship, until there's more money, until the novel is published, until vacation, the list is endless, aren't living at all.

Realistic and transmutable expectations: This one is tough, too. Life is change and we can't control much of that change. We have hopes and dreams BUT rigid and unrealistic expectations just leads to tears.

AND #1: Follow your passion! Which of course is what this blog is all about!

What makes you happy? And even more important, what makes you sustainable in your happiness? Something I've listed above--or?

Monday, July 23, 2007

You can't get there from here...

...unless you take the time to travel the path. This is another way to mitigate the dreaded anniversary blues.

In other words, when I was just beginning to write, when I was young and eager and energetic and stupid with all that youthful enthusiasm, I believed in the myth: I could sit down and write the Great American Novel in, say, six weeks. Uh-huh. That's what Hemingway did, right? Uh-huh.

And when I was young, I did write a novel in six weeks--boy, did it suck. You would pay me big bucks to not read this horror. And while I learned a lot (why people do NaNoWriMo) what I mostly learned is that things that are difficult to accomplish take time, and practice, and most of all: experience. Which takes it own sweet time.

So why be on some imaginary clock? Why freak out when a birthday or other anniversary comes speeding by? Probably because of our American-instant-success culture. So why not break out of the box? Throw away the calendar and focus on what matters: love.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Do you freak out too?

Okay, there's a reason for no postings for way too long: my birthday is coming up! So, am I the only person I know who freaks out around any sort of anniversary? No? Why do we do this to ourselves? It's excruciatingly painful--and really doesn't gain us more time or more energy.

Why? Now, I could wax philosophical here (and why does philosophy come in a wax?) and yammer on about perceptions of mortality--YUCK.

Instead, how about a couple of ways to avoid those horrid and exhausting and useless thoughts of: ohmigawd, I was going to, by this age: fill in the blank here. Since I haven't done: fill in the blank here I'll never do it. Or the worst: Now I'm too old to: fill in the blank here.

One way: take a deep breath and make a list of all that you have accomplished over the past six months, year, decade, whatever. ON THIS LIST INCLUDE: the normal day-to-day accomplishments: housework, job, groceries, mow the yard, the list goes on and on and as adults we do them and don't count them. But they count the most! Think about it, if you didn't do all the daily tasks, what would your life be like? Pat yourself on the back for being an adult!

And then: list all the accomplishments for your dreams and DON'T DISCOUNT. A writer and not published? Have you written and finished anything? A poem? An article? A short story? That counts, big time. Have you worked on your craft? Read a book about writing? Attended a class, workshop or conference? That counts, big time. Have you submitted anything ever? That counts, regardless of whether it sold or not, BIG TIME. COUNT COUP.

What else have you achieved? Weight loss? Healthy eating? Exercising? Pursuing a dream?

What would you consider as an achievement? If it's a big thing: selling a novel, for example, how much have you already done on the process? That's a process of mine, and I'm about to finish a strong almost draft of my novel. THAT COUNTS.

It's not always the end result that matters.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

July=fun! AND 5 Bucks off

Hey all, just a quickie post on my upcoming classes and workshops. July is going to be a blast, with my manga classes and my workshops on How to Edit and Market your Novel, Creating Creativity, and How to Focus and Succeed. Check it out at True North Creative Learning Center for more info.

AND as always, mention my blog and get $5.00 off any class or workshop!

P.S. I'm considering adding a manga workshop as well as the classes--comment and tell me what you think!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What I learned

If you wanna learn something, teach it. Boy is that too true!

So what did I learn from my own "How to Edit and Market Your Novel" workshop at the True North Creative Learning Center?

First, though I've known this forever, I finally "got it" in a big way: 90% of any creative endeavor is the work itself, 10% is everything else. In other words, how did I become a professionally published writer? I wrote. And wrote. And then wrote lots and lots more. Then, I did the 10%: I attended classes and workshops, I started a writers' group, I edited my work and researched the markets and sent it out and sent it out and sent it out and sold it.

Not a single piece of my writing would have ever sold if I hadn't learned to write by, yup, you guessed it: WRITING!

BIG SECRET: If you're spending more time learning how to do what you do, you're not learning at all. Just do it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

How to Edit and Market Your Novel coming up...


...tomorrow! Hence this photo of me giving a talk for a fourth grade class--yes, I look a little stressed, but that's because I got caught open-mouthed! I had a blast!

And I'm sure to have another one tomorrow. Plus, what I love best about teaching is I learn the most (and I'll share that after the workshop).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Comfort zones and breaking out of them

As promised, but a little different approach...

What is most powerful about workshops and conferences is how any or either can destroy a rut. Hunh? A rut? Yeah, you know, those awful comfort zones we all tumble into that are big deep long holes with dirt sides. You know, where you write along at pretty much the same level, content to be churning out words--without really improving those words. Habit, comfortable, easy TRAP.

Or maybe you're not comfortable--just stuck.

Well either a conference or a workshop works, in a zillion different ways: you meet other writers, you get immersed in your dream world, and the most important: during a workshop or conference, you achieve a tiny tiny bit of precious objectivity. Objectivity is golden and rare. It has something to do with being in a group that is all working toward a common goal, that shares dreams and ideas and even needs.

For a bit, whenever I attend a workshop or conference, I step out of my near-sighted, obsessed writer self and then learn and learn and become a better writer.

TIP: There are lots of great workshops and conferences, for all sizes and types. Go find one that makes you excited to attend. If you live on an island or in the midst of a desert, there are online workshops. More later about these...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Whoo--is my brain full up...

...that's what happens when I attend a fabulous workshop and a fabulous conference. Still processing here...and will share (I promise!) later...

Question: How do you retain and process new information? What's your style? More on mine and others, later...

Monday, June 11, 2007

After the great workshop and conference...

...this weekend I'm revved up. That's the best thing about either a great workshop or a great conference and this weekend I got both! Double-header!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Woohoo, big weekend coming up!

I'm excited, can you tell? I'm headed to the Murder in the Grove Conference this Saturday, June 9. It's always a blast and I always learn tons.

And this time, I'm on a panel "Mysteries in Brief" talking about the fiction form I began with (and still do, along with novel writing) : short stories.

Yummy!

Friday, June 1, 2007

More on Manga writing and creating creativity

It's not just changing the form of your creative endeavor, i.e. going from short story writing to manga writing that increases your ability with all writing, I've realized.

If you want more story ideas, bake cookies! Especially if baking is way out of your comfort zone. Even if you love to bake and "tweak" recipes all the time, then make up your own.

That way, you get all those synapses firing away and creating, creating, creating.

Secret: Stuck? Frustrated? Do something completely different!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Manga demo! This Thursday!

This is going to be fun--I'm having a blast already!

This Thursday is Last Thursday in Eagle, Idaho. At 7 pm I'll be demoing a storyboard for manga at the True North Creative Learning Center in downtown Eagle. I've got a great story in mind...

Last Thursday means that lots of businesses are open and offering fun treats and demos, all sorts of good stuff.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Got the ague?

Isn't ague a great word? I love it. And I think it describes what I'm talking about in this post. I went to a networking meeting yesterday, as a writer, editor and teacher of writing and creativity classes. What struck me, hard, is how many people have the "ague" of creativity. Most of the attendees at this meeting were realtors, financial advisors and bankers--practical right-brain people, right (it is the right brain that is math and stuff, isn't it?)? What do they care about the woo-woo world of creativity? I mean, most of the time you can't go to the bank with it!

And yet, most people I spoke with confessed a secret yearning to write...and granted they probably spoke to me because of their secret--but I talked to a lot of people (it was networking, after all) and was a bit surprised. And they spoke of this secret passion as if though it was something they had caught, like an ague, something they didn't want, like an ague, a disease that isn't fatal, but uncomfortable. Something best not talked about except to a fellow sufferer. Something that you want to "get over."

So here's a

TIP: In our culture, creativity isn't honored--that doesn't mean it's an illness. Why not embrace the ecstasy of whatever your creative passion may be? There's no cure, so why make yourself miserable? ENJOY!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More Manga, more writing

Just a quickie post on how much I'm learning about writing from manga. I know, it's weird, isn't it? Or at least it seems weird that a writer of short stories and novels who is *ahem* not a teenager anymore (although there is adult manga) would get so much out of what many adults call "comic books" and use a derisive tone.

Sure, manga are graphic novels--and there's the clue: novels. And like any novel, they need to follow the rules of writing. They require plot, characterization, and, of course, dialog. And since they are serial novels, they also require a "bible" and projection skills.

I suspect that I'm learning so much as manga is a different genre from the ones I usually work in: mystery short stories and novels.

And maybe because it's so much fun!

HINT: Do something that's the same but different: I'm learning a lot from a different genre of writing, so if you're an artist who paints in oils, try pastels, try watercolors, if you're a photographer, paint, and so on...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

No more Miss Snark

Eeek! Miss Snark is retiring. If you're a writer, this is sad news indeed. Miss Snark provided excellent advice about the world of agents and publishing, with no nonsense, straightforward snarkiness--delightful.

Only good word is that she is leaving the blog up and available for reference.

And only necessary words: Thank you, Miss Snark.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

More shopping

Workshopping, that is. I thought I'd mention one that I've found has knocked my writing up to a whole new level, and yeah that's a cliche, but this is a blog, not my w.i.p.

Donald Maass holds Intensive Workshops in different places around the country every year. And by INTENSIVE, I mean intensive. It's an entire week of all day working on being a better writer. Don and his great crew are fabulous at providing myriad tools for crafting a great novel. No, by that I don't mean a guaranteed best seller, I've done my best work on my current w.i.p. that I've ever done, and all my writing is stronger.

Yes, it takes time and money, but for me it was both EXTREMELY well spent. I'm planning on going again, but first I'm writing and writing...

Secret: You get better at something by practicing it. You also get better by working with people who have the "secrets" of how to create. You also get better by being with your peers. The secret is balancing the different elements--with the emphasis on doing the work!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

No, I don't know how to surf...

...but I do know how to swim. Sometimes I forget this important fact. After I've gotten off the beach and braved the small waves and gotten out into the ocean, I can panic. Even though the swells that turn into waves are easier and I'm a strong swimmer...

a swell: "Oh no, my w.i.p. is almost finished. Now it has to go out into the world and be judged."
another swell: "Oh no, this class is going to be successful. Now I have to teach it."
Gulp, gulp--and I swallow sea water.

Do you see a theme here? Success is scary. The ocean is a very big place, and the surf and beach far more familiar to me. It can be easier for me to head back to shore sometimes--but when I resist and remember how I love to swim, then I can relax and float for a bit, and enjoy the great swells, enjoy success.

So, how well do you swim? What scares you about the ocean?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Manga again...

Okay, so the figure filled my post space--and hopefully didn't lead to a lot of confusion...or any.

I'm teaching a class in Manga! Yay! It's a blast already, preparing for this class. I get to read lots of fun manga--and some of the writing is good. And in the class everybody gets to do their own story board!

Which for me reminds me of the days when I was a film editor/script writer. And which also helps with my w.i.p. as I'm in the editing stage. When you're editing a documentary film, it's always best to "tighten and clarify" as much as possible.

If you'd like to know more about my classes, feel free to visit the True North Creative Learning Center.

TIP: If you're editing a story, take a little time to think of it as if you viewed a film of your story. What scenes are too long? Unneccessary? Or are there missing scenes?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Making waves


Okay, I'm not actually making the waves here. I mean, I'm good but I'm not that good. What I'm doing (not in the photo) is continuing the analogy from my last post and adding to it.

So, I'm renewed by my beach time, what's next? Into the waves! In my life, I think of the waves as challenges. Some wave challenges are small: get this story submitted, edit this scene of my novel. And some are huge waves: finish my current w.i.p. so that I'm happy with it. And much the same as breasting those big waves, it's a challenge sometimes to keep on my feet.

And it's quite tempting to head back to the beach, especially if I've been knocked off my feet by a big wave and swallowed some bitter sea water, i.e. when I get a rejection for a story I really thought I'd sell to that particular market. However, if I head back to the beach, I don't make any headway--okay that was bad.

And when I remember that I can't control the waves and that the waves--everybody gets rejections, it's a buyer's market for writing--then I get back on my feet and keep going. So then what happens? Find out in a later post...

What are your waves? What knocks you off your feet? And what do you do then?

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Life's a beach

I've been working on an image these past few days. It comes from my love of the beach and ocean. (Who doesn't love a good beach?) Sometimes, when I meditate, the beach is my safe haven. It has been that in reality, and a place to relax and renew. I've realized, over the last few days, that we all need such a place, even if it's internal. And like my suggestion of mini-vacations, some beach time is necessary.

However, sometimes, retreating is a trap. It's great to relax and renew. But retreat has more than one meaning. Too much beach time leads to skin cancer.

So it goes back to knowing when it's time to relax and when it's time to work. I haven't figured out a good balance yet--like all dead Puritans (see previous post) I tend to work until I collapse.

What do you do for "beach time?"

Friday, May 4, 2007

the living end


Made you look!

Okay, BUTT there is a point to this photo--for this posting is about living in the moment. When I live in the moment I pursue my dreams without doubting myself.

So why post a photo of my dog's behind? Because she does live every moment, in the moment! See how focused she is? She how happy she is? Well, maybe that's a little hard to tell from this photo, but trust me, she is.

So what prevents you from being in the moment? From going after your dreams?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Puritans are all dead people.

Well, yeah, that's seems rather obvious, doesn't it. What I'm talking about, however, is how that good ol' Puritan work ethic is still with us and makes us all dead people. Dead because we're so trapped in work, work and more work that what we really love gets pushed aside far too often. And when we're not working, we feel guilty...or at least this has been my experience.

When I wake up to how I'm alive now and what matters is not how much money I make, or how clean the house is (and it's never clean enough) and etc. etc. the list never ends and I take a real break, a mini-vacation, and PLAY--then I return to work, writing, anything energized and focused.

And it doesn't have to be a trip to Mexico! I find taking the dog for a walk to be a great vacation--IF I truly stay present and enjoy the walk. If it's the sort of walk where I'm hurrying because it is one more thing on the list, or I'm not present because I'm worrying about everything I haven't got done then it's not a vacation, it's a punishment.

So, I'm going to play on...for a bit each day.

What are your mini-vacations?

TIP: When you take a break, make it a real break, not just another form of work.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

What's on first, no who's on first, no....

Ugh--don't you just hate the word "priorities?" It seems such a prissy word and for us creative types it seems far too rigid, too much business and lists and no fun--and yet I now believe "priorities" is a power word--if used right.

If you're a creative person like me you may need to return to priorities often. I sure do! I've got so much great stuff going on and it's so easy to find more (I just thought of another short story idea! There's another class idea! and...and) that it's powerful to just stop and take a moment to ask: what's on first? What's closest to my heart? Right now, for me, it's finishing a close to final draft of my current w.i.p. When I remind myself of that, when I prioritize, my focus increases, my energy increases and I'm more effective and successful at getting everything done.

So: do you prioritize? If so, why? How often?

TIP: Turn off your computer games--it's amazing how much time we all waste on those games! (Yeah, I'm guilty of that, too.)