Friday, March 30, 2007


Images, a way of seeing. I was talking to a couple of the fellow teachers at the True North Learning Center last night and the subject of masks came up. It got me to thinking that it's another way to see our images and how others perceive us.

Of course, we all wear masks, whether we're aware of them or not. I've noticed that as I've become away of my different masks, when I've worked on what they are and why I wear them, I've realized that sometimes a mask is a protection and other times a trap.

Of course we have to wear masks when we're out in the world to protect ourselves and protect other people too. I wear a mask of "harmless, funny, good-natured sweet lady" when I'm out and about, so that I treat people well and so that I'm perceived well and treated well. And really, the mask is close to my own real self, so what's the harm?

The harm comes when someone mistakes a mask for me--as in "I can't believe you write murder mysteries, you're such a nice person, so why do you have--fill in the blank with something that person thinks doesn't fit me--in your story?" That's a trap.

And it's a trap when it becomes too rigid: "You're a mystery writer so all you'll write is mysteries."

And finally, when I mistake a mask of mine for me, that's the biggest trap of all. When I believe what I see at "face value." That I am the mask: that all I'll write is mysteries.

So, what are your masks? How do they help you? Hinder you? Or blind you?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mirror, Mirror

Sometimes it's all about seeing. Sometimes it's all about images, inside and out. And sometimes the boundaries get blurred between the two. I've been thinking a lot about this all, as my life has shifted a lot in the past couple of months and what my internal image is, and what the image people have of me, sometimes clashes with who I am now and who I am becoming. I think we've all been trapped in not-seeing, in the image instead of the being.

But being creative is a way to see. I've been imagining a new image of the new me, not just what I look like but how it feels, what a day is, how people react to me, think of me, now. And it works! It's like the dieting tip of pasting a photo of yourself on the fridge when you were a normal weight.

And I think that's true of all creative people. So many times, if we can see it, i.e. imagine it, we do it!

Tip: Success breeds success and you don't have to be successful in order to succeed. Just imagine yourself successful (a gallery opening, the cover of your new book) and you've already succeeded!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Imagine your success...

and succeed. Yeah, yeah, seems awfully simple doesn't it? And really, it is, especially for us creative types who all possess a plethora of imagination. No, this isn't one of those woo-woo things where you imagine winning the lottery and then do so, I'm far too pragmatic for that. This is more about using imagination to create specific instances of success.

We all have images of how we are in the world, who we are in the world, how we operate and function or fail to function, and what we expect from ourselves and others. So how about using imagination to change and improve those images? I've found it immensely useful to pay attention to the background "chatter" we all have, to catch myself in negative chatter, for example: I don't have time to fill in the blank and use my imagination to replace that chatter with a positive solution and scenario--I'll have an extra fifteen minutes a day if I make extra for dinners and freeze individual portions for lunches. I'll save money and time and have delicious lunches. This is an easy example, I'll have fun exercises for the tougher things to shift so you can lock it down and make it happen.

And thanks to my good friend Kathy, again, for another great suggestion that led to this post.

TIP: Are you a writer struggling to write a novel? Gotten blocked? Quick and easy energizing exercise: write the dedication page for your published novel or start the list of your acknowledgments. You'll find that makes it not just as remote possibility that you'll finish and publish--that makes it real.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

To prioritize do you have to be celibate?

Certainly, if you're a nun or a priest you're first priority is obvious and easier if you live in a priory (do priests or nuns live in priories?). Which got me going on this post, because for the rest of us, it's not so easy (and I know that nowadays, it's not easy for nuns and priests, also).

The whole point being, after all my bad punning, how does anyone prioritize? Some days, a lot of days, okay, most days, it feels like every moment I'm pulled willy-nilly in a thousand different directions from the moment I wake up--because there's a million different things that need to be done at least five minutes ago, if not last week. I'm not alone in this, am I? Sound familiar?

Life maintenance alone can be overwhelming sometimes: groceries, laundry, dishes, dinner, gas the car, get the dog to the vet, and the job!! AARGH! Not to mention if you've got children...because if you've got children, the list is too long to mention...

The big problem in prioritizing: all this life stuff has to be done, BUT none of it is first priority. None of it is writing pages, working on the current painting, designing that new piece of jewelry or attending a workshop or a class (such as How to Focus and Succeed, my class at the True North Creative Learning Center, starting April 14th) to further your craft.

So how to prioritize? Luckily there's more than one way to do so, several of which I'll teach in my class because I've discovered that different approaches work for different individuals. For example, some people have great success in making different lists for different things, i.e. a grocery list, a to-do list for the house, a to-do list for the weekend projects, and a to-do list for the creative work. They are able to prioritize and manage the lists, and focus on getting it done. Me, if I'm that specific, always end up focusing on organizing and adding to the lists and then I often lose the list I need at that moment. (Has anybody else been standing in the grocery store with every list save the grocery list?) If you're like me, I have a solution that I'll share in class.

SECRET: You're creative, use your imagination to prioritize. Imagine a successful completion of a project (keep it simple). Now imagine the steps to complete the project. Now imagine the time it will take to complete each step. Double that time (all creative people are optimists) and imagine where you have spots of time to do a step.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Getting caught in the net

Oh my, this is a biggie. As you may know, this is a new blog...and I'm trapped in the blogosphere and don't want out. When I first "joined the net" I had to: I was working for a bookstore (fun, fun job for a writer) and we researched titles online (the order system on Ingram online wasn't up yet, boy that makes me feel old). I swore that I'd never get caught in the net. I'd just use it for bare necessities. Yeah, right. Anybody out there say the same?

I have a few luddite friends who are anti-net...and yet even some of these friends have discovered how much easier and efficient it is to trade e-mails instead of phone messages. And I know teens who spend hours every day watching youtube, and I want to shout at them, look up! get a life! (But they do this as a group activity, so maybe it's

Yeah, yeah, this is an old argument, with no easy answers--because there is no one single answer. And not just one question. I'm always asking myself: am I spending too much time on the net? And the answer to that question is yes--but this world is part of our world and is an excellent resource. Yeah, it wastes time but it saves time too. I place books on hold at my local library. I research markets. I keep in good touch with good friends, some of them thousands of miles away.

So, how to succeed at balancing the net? Ah--there are ways--it takes a little bit of self-reflection, a touch of planning, and a bit of creative problem solving, all of which we'll touch on in my class.

HINT: If at all possible (and sometimes, I agree, it's not, if your business is too closely tied to the internet) keep your computer off the net whilst your working on a project. Save "net time" for after creative time, it's far less important!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Denial ain't a river, it's a dam

A dream delayed is a dream denied.

Yeah, I curbed from the old saying: Grief denied is only grief delayed.

And in my life, both statements have been proved true. There's a lot of ways to delay a dream--how many times have I hesitated to submit a story, wanting to rewrite it one more time until it's "just right?" Which, of course, it can never be. Too many times. How many times did I make excuses that I was too stressed or too tired or needed to do whatever, to keep myself from sitting down and writing? And when I was truly too tired to write, what kept me from prepping manuscripts, checking markets, or researching? Too, too many times.

Fear, of course. Somehow, it felt safer to delay the dream, as if acting to make it real would make it disappear. The opposite is true. Every delay denies the dream and enough delay and its destroyed.

So now, when I'm procrastinating (and yes, we all do it, me too) I ask myself: do I want to deny this dream? And I usually get back to work.

So, what do you do to deny your dreams?

Friday, March 16, 2007


Here's my frozen dog.

I've been thinking a lot about "reframing" as it is a "newbie" word like newbie that has come up a lot in my life lately. And since I'm a word smith, when I use words like reframing and newbie, I wince. I mean, after all, doesn't reframing mean taking that tired old seventies' style purple frame off the 11" x 14" wedding photo and replacing it with something more modern? And shouldn't it be hyphenated at the very least, as in re-framing?

Then it occurred to me that reframing is exactly what creative people do all the time with everything. It's one of the ecstasies and the curses of being creative. There's nothing that we don't tweak, not a thing that we can't see all the different permutations of, and where they could lead.

This is the joy of it. My artist father could never just look at scenery without coming up with photographs he wanted to take, paintings to paint, a jewelry design or twenty designs or a hundred designs. I do the same in my writing, everywhere I look, everything I experience I come up with another idea or a hundred ideas.

Which brings me to the photo above: haven't we all adopted this pose at one point or another? Awash in too many ideas, lost in a sea of options, or just distracted to the frozen point? This is the curse of reframing.

So how to keep it as a strength? By being selective of course.

Huh? What?

Well, just because I have ten different ideas doesn't mean I need to pursue and develop each and every one right at that moment, that just leads to freezing up. I scribble them down with enough info to remind me and return to the ideas later. By that time, I'm more objective and the ideas to pursue pop forward.

What are some the ways you reframe? How does it solve problems? Create problems?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Here's the After...

See the difference? And you may also notice that it's not PERFECT! This is critical. So many times, creative people find reasons to procrastinate, and I know this whole "clean office" bit is one major culprit. And there's more to it...which is one of the sneaky pitfalls we'll cover in my class How to Focus and Succeed at the True North Creative Learning Center.

This is only one of the many subconscious monsters that attack and destroy focus. Not to worry, I've got lots of sharp swords to slay the beasts. I'm so looking forward to this class!

Before and After, here's the before...

Here's what my office looked like before I started applying my own concepts (which I'm going to share with anyone who attends my How to Focus and Succeed class).

Eeek! Every time I looked at this mess, and it was every time I walked into my office, I got so distracted I couldn't focus on writing. Sound familiar? And yes, every few weeks I'd make it a huge project to "clean the office until it was CLEAN COMPLETELY," take hours of creative time and then not be able to find anything ever.

HINT: Overwhelmed by the chaos in your office (or office space, area, on top of your laptop)? Don't know where to start, it seems like a knotted piece of string? Don't try to organize everything forever. Set a timer for 10 minutes and either pick one thing off a pile and do that, or go through one SMALL pile and organize. When the timer goes off: QUIT. Next day, repeat. You'll avoid cleaning burn-out and be surprised at how quickly you organize. And you'll feel like "maintaining" the space since it's only a few minutes each day!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Cue Up

No, I don't mean let's all play a game of pool. This is something that I've been working on with 2 of my major distractions, my beloved beasts. I've got one of each an 18lb cat that's a stomach with legs and a basenji dog. The cat is my first cat ever and the dog is my second basenji.

So what does this have to do with Cue up? The cat is a wussy boy who deeply desires one thing only: food. He's willing to demand food at any time, all the time, including in the early morning hours a minute before the alarm goes off (whoever says animals can't tell time never had a cat). Now, I'm not a morning person, I've never been a morning person, I'll never be a morning person. The cat has no idea how close he comes to an ugly death every morning.

Bruce, my problem solving great boyfriend, suggested we feed the beasts as late as possible so the cat wouldn't expect food at 5:30 am. He mentioned using "cues" to reset kitty's expectations, such as after we have breakfast and are dressed and ready to go out the door.

This works, and if it works for my very smart cat (he can open the pantry door) it'll work for us humans. I've been cuing myself up this week and trying different cues for success. What works best for me is getting dressed and getting a soup-sized cup of tea--then I have no excuses for setting down and WORKING. I'm going to work.

So, what cues might work for you?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Balance isn't just for gymnasts

Balance, balance, balance--sure sounds boring doesn't it? Especially to us creative types--it's way too close to-gasp!-self discipline, which always sounds to me like a bizarre form of s&m for recluses...but balance is at the core of what we all struggle with every day. And I do mean all of us, whether we're writers or artists or lawyers. It's an Overcommitment Puritan Ethic Disease, or OPED (a single wheeled vehicle that has a square wheel) for short. I've been thinking a lot on this as my new class is all about "How to Focus and Succeed" at the True North Creative Learning Center starting April 14, and how can we creative folks focus when we're riding around on a one square wheel OPED.
Here's one thing that has helped me balance myself, at least a little: meditation. Aaargh! No! I'll have to shave my head, I can hear you all saying, no whoo-whoo stuff! Ugh! Relax, all I'm talking about is that I pull my attention to the moment whenever I remember to--which isn't often, I'm a flittertigibbet just like every creative person I know. I promise you won't have to wear orange sheets or buy those floor pillows that end up as dog beds...what I've noticed is when I notice the moment it centers me and opens time. Opens time? What? Yes, I get balanced enough to realize what matters, what I should do first and, guess what? now I've got time.

Secret: Dealing with another horrid ion: Procrastination. When you're stuck in this dreaded ion here's a simple fix: pick one small thing and do it. By small, I mean small like pay a bill, or send a manuscript out that's ready and waiting to be sent, not an OPED small like clean the garage. If you pick one small thing and accomplish it, that means you've SUCCEEDED in focusing and doing and you're no longer procrastinating, now are you?
And a big thanks to my good friend and great writer Kathy McIntosh for the suggestion that led to this shared secret.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Murder in the Grove

Yup, Murder in the Grove is a fabulous conference for several reasons. First, it's short and sweet (one Saturday with an optional Friday workshop) but jam-packed with something for everyone. It's a small enough conference that you actually get to meet people, often well-known writers, agents and editors. I've attended every Murder in the Grove conference and I've chatted with Martha Grimes, Philip Margolin, Anne Perry, Carolyn Hart, Joanne Pence and many others. That's right, chatted, casual and fun. This year, Robert Crais is being honored at the conference, another opportunity for me to talk with an author whose work I admire.

The panels are varied and over a wide range of fascinating subjects. Every time I've gone I've had to struggle with the question: this panel or this panel or this panel? I've always been pleased with my choice but regretted not being able to be in two/three places at once!

And this conference is inexpensive--and you don't have to take a whole week off of work to go.

Now, granted, I live in Boise and belong to the group who puts on Murder in the Grove and will be sitting on a panel this time around. But I've been to other conferences and this one's a keeper. Plus, if you've never been to Boise let me tell you what the agent Meredith Bernstein said last year at the conference (I'm paraphrasing): "When I decided to go, I thought Boise, Idaho? What's in Boise, Idaho? Now I wished I'd come several days early to get see everything that's here. I need to come back." That from a New Yorker.

And of course, you already know somebody who is going to be at the conference: me!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Why Conference?

Why conference? Don't you just hate it when people turn a noun into a verb? I apologize, but the whole sentence: Why go to a conference? wouldn't fit into the title.

This is a topic endlessly discussed on various blogs, but I've got my own points on why to go to a conference. First, there's no such thing, perhaps there never was, as an ivory tower--we all need a fresh dose of "stim" from time to time or the well runs dry (okay, now I'm shortening words and mixing metaphors, maybe this is a post about how not to write!). What better place to fill yourself up than at a conference where you're among people of like nutty-mindedness? Even if you're an introvert, the energy from all those writers is a real rush. I always return from a conference with tons of renewed enthusiasm and myriad ideas. Second: Every conference I've attended has taught me great stuff, and I've attended a lot. Every panel, every workshop is unique and often that's all it takes...My writing has both improved and increased from what I've learned. And finally, and perhaps most important: it's a connected world and a conference is the place to get connected--and I don't mean just to the agents and editors attending. I suspect Miss Snark is correct in that the agents don't often find new authors at these conferences. Doesn't matter, for I've found the benefit is in the other writers--there the ones who'll "blind" read your stuff, who'll suggest other markets, who will find a great agent and let you know and possibly introduce you to said agent. Yes, yes, it's networking at its best!

In the next post, I'll tell you about a conference that I adore.

Tip: I have a friend who has a cell phone where she only gives the number to her husband, kids' schools, and other family members for use for emergencies only! This is a great idea, if you can do it. When you're working turn off your phone, or if you have to keep it on for business or family, at least turn the ringer down. There's something about that shrill demand for attention that is disruptive...much more so than kids playing in the next room for example. We're trained to drop everything and respond.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Comments and Creating

One of the things I adore about the blogs I read is the comments (and more about my favorite blogs later after they are posted on this site, i.e. after my great techie honey shows me how...). I suspect I'm not alone in this, as all us creative people love other input, don't we? It's part of how we learn and come up with new ideas. Besides, I'm curious, okay snoopy. So go ahead and comment on my blog--I'd love to know what you think.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

How to get Five Bucks... my class. Hey, made you look! And all you have to do is mention my blog Conda's Creative Center when you sign up for my class: How to Focus and Succeed at the True North Creative Learning Center which starts Saturday, April 14th.

And boy am I having a blast getting ready for this class. It's back to school time--only this time there's none of that hard stuff like science and math, it's Art class and free writing and recess all the way!

HINT: PLAY. I've noticed that the more creative people play, the more fun we have, the more we are focused and effective and creative and successful. Honor that little kid inside all day, every day. Here's a couple of ideas: have a button-down business suit job that crushes that kid? Take a fun lunch box to work. If even that's frowned upon, wear a friendship bracelet. If that's frowned upon (yeah I worked at that place too) wear fun underwear, you'll know!