Monday, September 29, 2008

How to Pick it.

Not what you're thinking to pick. Get your mind out of there!

But rather, how to determine where to put your focus. As creative folks, we often struggle with a plethora, even an overwhelming excess, of ideas. Of projects. Instead of having one road to follow, or two or three, we have myriad little paths, all enticing. Oooh, look at the pretty flowers on this path, but wait, this one has a stream running by, but over here--

Life is finite, pick one. So you can finish one. I know of some many talented, capable creative people who never finish because they never pick one. They walk down just enough of one path to find others.

How to pick? If you're struggling, here are some tips to get past standing at a thousand forks in the road.

1. What speaks to your heart and spirit and mind? Yes, all the paths are attractive, but which one do you think/feel you could walk down until you reach the end?
2. Every creative process is a journey. What journey truly is the one you want to take? No matter what happens on the road, further ahead?
3. Time is short and getting shorter every minute. Where would you like to be six months from now? A year from now? Five years? What would feel best to be able to say: "I accomplished this"?

And yes, of course, any path can be changed. Still, when you pick, commit to what you've picked!

Next post, what to do once you've picked your path and the going gets rocky.

Do you ever have difficulties picking the next project? Or is the path always clearly marked? If it is hard to choose, what do you do to pick?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shifting Energy towards Success

Two images of the same bouquet, just one is buds and the other is fully blown.

Stuck in a creative endeavor? Can't move forward? Struggling with gettin' 'er done? Happens, all too often, to good folks! Why?

The stopping power of getting to done, finished, completed--all have connotations of being a death. When humans are done, finished, completed, we're dead. Not a good thing. This is a major part of the "sticking problem" we often encounter at some point in a w.i.p.

How do we shift that negative energy?

Keep in mind that a completed work is only on the path of going towards something new, whether it be publication or selling of the work in some form or more simply sharing it with friends and family--it's always in process.

Reframing what "done" means really helps too. When at the junction of a finished work, remember it is just a marker on the path of the work and that's all the meaning it has. It's not complete and it never will be--that's not the nature of any creative piece. Why? Because it goes on, transformed by others' experience. The reader of a book, the viewer of a piece of art, the wearer of jewelry all add their own part as they experience the piece.

And does the rose bush die when you cut off the blooms? Remember that if you don't cut the roses on a rose bush, you don't get any more blooms. If you don't trim the roses, the plant becomes weaker as the blooms become rose hips. Finishing the work is only trimming blooms to create more growth.

What do you do when you get stuck? What helps you move forward? What hinders the shifting of the energy towards success?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Becoming a better writer

How to become a better writer?

A big question I've been struggling with over the last few weeks. After attending Donald Maass' excellent High Tension Workshop, I worked to use what I learned. But working with my w.i.p. turned out to be difficult. It's a novel. It's long. It's complicated. It seemed like I was adding yet another couple of layers of complexity as I had to be consciously adding what I'd learned. It had yet to become subconscious. This felt overwhelming.

Until I figured out that I needed to "step out" of my w.i.p. and practice what I learned on a short story. Less emotional attachment, much, much shorter, and I picked a story that was character driven instead of plot driven to use the new tools. This helped, considerably.

Attending workshops, classes and conferences is only one part of honing a craft. Then figuring out ways to APPLY what you've learned is the second part of becoming a better writer.

What do you do to improve as a writer?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Depleted Dirt

A Photo of Depleted Dirt

What is a photo of dirt doing on a blog about the creative process? Well, it's a special kind of dirt, one that provides an analogy. Us writers adore a good analogy.

Our grass hasn't been green all summer, despite our efforts, so my s.o. has been testing the dirt. Above is one of the tests. The result? We've got no nutrients for the grass to grow on. No wonder it doesn't grow.

So the analogy: have you been growing your creative endeavor for so long you've depleted the soil? Forcing growth while the roots wither? Do you need to feed deep down so you can have something to draw from?

And what do you do to replenish your creative soil? Here are a few of my favorite activities to get some nutrients:
1. Reading other people's works, or going to a good movie, or a photography/art exhibit gives me a fresh perspective on my own work and often leads to epiphanies.
2. If I get out into nature, even if it's only taking a walk, and paying attention to the huge, vast space around me, opens and refreshes my mind.
3. And finally, whenever I try something I've never tried before, a new restaurant, a new path, a new author or artist, it's a delicious, satisfying and invigorating meal.

What do you do to avoid depleted soil? How do you feed your dirt? When do you know it's depleted?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Brain Support: Healthy Fried Green Tomatoes

A Summer Bouquet as Summer is Almost Over

And as summer is almost done, green tomatoes abound. Because they contain all sorts of great anti-oxidants, tomatoes support all sorts of great brain activity. Even green tomatoes. And what could be better than more brain activity, hence more creativity?

So here's a couple of recipes:

Healthy Fried Green Tomatoes
(Secret: They're healthy because they're not fried.)
There are two ways to make these, both are delicious.

For small green tomatoes, about a half pound:
In a large bowl combine:
1/3 c. olive oil
1 tbsp basil (fresh if you've grown it)
1 tsp garlic powder (or one fresh clove chopped very fine)
1 tsp onion powder (or tbsp chopped fresh, again very fine)
Pepper to taste if you like pepper
Chop small tomatoes into cubes, can be bite sized. Add to olive oil and spices and mix well. Pour into baking pan--works best if all pieces are touching but all on the bottom of the pan. Bake at 375 to 400 degrees (depending on your oven) for 10 minutes, then stir and bake for another 10 minutes, or until still a little firm. Then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if you like Parmesan cheese and broil until cheese is lightly browned.

For huge green tomatoes (beefsteaks for example):
Make mixture.
Place halved tomatoes in baking pan, best if touching.
Drizzle 1/2 mixture over tomatoes.
Bake for 15 minutes, then drizzle other half and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until still slightly firm.
Add Parmesan or broil plain to finish.

This simple recipe can be tweaked to your own personal tastes. For example, I can never use too much basil, especially if it's fresh. Use mozzarella cheese for a heartier dish. Or when you're ready to broil the tomatoes, add hot cooked ground beef and cheese for a main course.

Simple, easy, healthy.

So how many of you have green tomatoes? How many have recipes for same?