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


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.


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?