Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sign Off 2008

Last of the Christmas images.

A sunset for the ending year.

The dog's nose. She's wondering, "Is it safe to come out yet? I don't like all the fuss."

Yes, it's the last holiday of 2008. Here's hoping for a creative, productive and jubilant 2009. With many celebrations yet to come, and disappointments few and far between. With all best wishes,


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dither, dither, dither and why

A Holiday table and some winter views.

What is it about these days between Christmas and New Year's? Is it because it is still the holiday season, yet no longer Christmas? Whatever, many people (myself included) find it difficult to re-focus, re-initiate, re-discipline, or just plain start working.

Especially in the United States, part of the problem may be how the Christmas "season" has gobbled up all the other holidays. There's no distinction between Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years. Gone are the days when New Year's was a different and unique holiday all its own, with its own traditions.

So we're left with, "Is it over with? Sorta? Maybe? Kinda?" Plus, a real sense of dissociation with regular life that I find most distracting.

Do you struggle with the same sense in these days between Christmas and New Years? Not time to put away the decorations, but time to get back to work? Not time to put away the party outfits, but focus on regular habits? If you don't struggle, great! If you do, what do you that helps?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Times!

To all my friends out there in blogger land, may you have a glorious season!
With all best wishes,

Monday, December 22, 2008

Of Glorious Distractions


is indeed a glorious distraction. It's fun and evocative of all Christmas Past and Christmas Future. It's also busy, frantic, hurry...and regular priorities can and do fall by the wassail side.

So what? Nobody wants to be a Scrooge the entire Christmas season, right? And working all the time is positively counter-productive. Everybody needs a break, what better time than Christmas?

The only problem I've found is too much time away from a work means much more work. Why? Because too much of a total break (as sometimes happens during the holidays) destroys my focus. Plus, I forget too much, drift from where I was headed, and can lose my way--as in, what was I going to write next? What does this note mean? What was the plot flaw and what was my solution?!

So I have to keep working, if only for a few moments a day. Have to stay in the work. Saves time later on, after the holidays.

How about you, dear readers? Can you set your current work down and walk away? Or do you regret it later?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Rule of Odds

Snow this morning.

Christmas Decorations

Yes, it's that season, all right, but the photos above are for another point. There's a subtle difference in the two photos (besides being of different subjects). One is static, the other not. If you look, the picture with three items is more energetic, dynamic, interesting somehow. Some sort of oddity about odd numbers creates this odd effect.

An oddity any writer can use to advantage. Lists of three (as in energetic, dynamic, interesting) are more intriguing than two or four or six. Paragraphs broken into one, three, five and so on, number of sentences moves the reader onto the next paragraph. It even, oddly enough, works with the number of chapters in a novel. Gary Provost pointed out that novels that have odd numbers of chapters are more successful than even numbered.

Why? Perhaps because an even number is a closed, finished, full number, whereas odds are incomplete.

It's odd that just by counting, you can improve your work.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Rainbow Effect

Rainbow on a walk

Kathy of Well Placed Words just posted about gratitude and Dave of Pics and Poems, in his giving me awards also tagged me to tell 7 things about myself that people may not know. I've combined the two so:

I'm grateful for still being able to physically
a. see the end of my nose clearly (with my glasses off)
b. cross my fingers--all 8 of them
c. chew my own toenails if I choose (I don't choose).

And I'm grateful for:
a. my mother not knowing that it was impossible for her to have children because of her autoimmune disease until she had me
b. being born into a world where a 3 pound preemie could survive
c. being born to eccentric, creative parents (growing up, I lived with rocks in the bath tub, buffalo bones on the living room rug and goats in the kitchen--just normal) and having friends and family now who are quirky, creative and supportive souls.

Finally--just an oddity: I'm terrified of moths and grasshoppers, but not afraid of spiders or snakes. Go figure.

So, my dear friends who received blog awards, you're tagged with 7 things people probably don't know about you. And of course, this is totally voluntary, but I'm curious...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Raw Turkey


We brined the turkey. Above it's being prepped in brine--giving anybody any plot ideas for horror or mystery stories?! What did you think that was when you first saw it? Did anybody else brine their turkey? (Those of my readers who celebrate Thanksgiving--or anybody who's cooked a turkey.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Awards and Tagged!

Dave of Pics and Poems has kindly given me the four awards you see to the left (after my favorite blogs and the little google ad). Thank you, Dave!

Part of receiving awards is of course passing on the honor. So here are a few of the blogs that I truly enjoy reading and often receive a lot of thought-provoking knowledge from:

There are more, of course, but I tried to pick the blogs that I check, often daily (if I have the time and am not doing NaNoWriMo) because I want to catch every entry. And blogs that are very, very different one from the other, as well. The other blogs listed on the left are also excellent!

So check 'em out for some great reading...

Next post, I got tagged, too!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Divided Mind

NaNoWriMo's been going on for over a week. What I've learned, so far, is:

My, but our minds are sneaky, unconscious little devils. Amazing how they can divide into conscious and subconscious and even unconscious compartments. The editor lurks, ready to spring on the unsuspecting, trying-to-just-write writer with, "Slow down or better yet, stop. Because this isn't working, not really. Oh no, that plot won't work, better go back to the drawing board and start over. Better rewrite the last scene before you try a new scene. You'd better--"

Well, you get the idea.

One of my solutions? To realize that the editor is only trying to help. The editor has a job and just doesn't know when to do it. So I'm gentle with said editor and say, "That may all be true, but right now I'm writing rough draft. You'll work later." If the editor continues, I get firmer and more specific, "Hush up until I finish this page, chapter, whatever."

Okay, so I'm talking to myself.

What do you do to turn off the editor? How do the edit demons sneak up on you?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Off topic and on a soapbox

Tomorrow is Election Day in the U.S.

It was only 89 years ago that women got the right to vote. I knew a woman (she died at a 100 years old) who marched for the right to vote and ended up jailed for 4 days. They arrested her and others on the Friday they marched, then didn't arraign them until late Monday and put all the women in the worst, filthiest part of the jail. My friend, 19 at the time and wearing a brand new outfit, spent the weekend standing up, too horrified to sit or eat or sleep.

She voted in every election she could, no matter how small. She never believed that people didn't bother to vote. She couldn't imagine it.

Voting is a privilege. I don't care what political party you belong to or who you vote for, just please, please, please


The thunk you hear is Conda stepping down off her soapbox.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Dark and Stormy Day

It's the Devil Dog of the Serengeti!

And it's a dark and stormy day here--I'm hoping for Trick or Treaters so I don't eat all the candy!

And a question for my friend bloggers in other countries: do you celebrate Halloween? With kiddies dressed up and all the fixin's?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Refreshed, renewed and clearing the decks

Seats with flowers in the center at Pike Place Market.

Bruce on Whale Sighting Boat.

Me on the whale sighting tour. We saw Humpbacks!

Okay, I couldn't resist a few vacation photos.

In the previous post, I discussed taking a real break and what it might mean. So, what did it mean? Well, Swubird had a point in the comments when he said I might need to take my laptop, that's it's tough going cold turkey. Luckily, I had a pen and pad of paper for when inspiration struck. And it did strike, about twice.

But most of the time, the well refilled, the creative engine refueled, the spirit refreshed and--well you get the idea. And ideas started popping into my mind--a real light show. Which is excellent for my next endeavor: I'm participating in NaNoWriMo, not to write an entire novel in a month, but rather to finish my w.i.p. by the end of November. A way of setting an intention.

So, what did it mean? The vacation worked! And the ship analogy of clearing the decks? That's what I'm up to this week to prep for NaNo. Finishing an article that's going to be due November, submitting some short stories, cleaning the office...

How about you--do vacations just make you feel guilty--or do they renew your creative source? Like me, when faced with a deadline, do you leap into productivity--or become frozen? Do you feel the need to occasionally "clear the decks" or do you find comfort and inspiration in chaos?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fall Without Failing

Some pics of fall foliage

This is going to be a short post as I am about to head to Seattle for a real vacation, i.e. just having fun and doing what we want.

Feels strange. UnAmerican, somehow. Never mind that it's been over 2 years since we had a real vacation. Never mind that I often promote taking breaks from the work.

So never mind that if I don't take a writing tablet and the intention to "work on my writing" along with me, my anxiety skyrockets. Doesn't matter if I actually write, I have to know that I'm planning to write to relax.

Now that I've confessed my "fall" that really isn't a "failing" how about yours? What sort of goofy eccentricities do you find yourself doing as a creative person? Do they trip you up? Or not?

Come on, you know you have some!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Turning back

A photo of a path on a fall day.

As promised, when to quit. When giving up isn't because you can't ever finish what you started, isn't lack of commitment or discipline, but is the right thing to do.

And there's several reasons to quit the path, all legitimate.

One could be that the path has simply disappeared. This happens, not often, thank heavens. But sometimes a great idea is only that--an idea. It turns out to not have enough substance to sustain a long work. We've all read novels with a fabulous start and an incredible idea only to have it...peter out, go flat, disappear.

Another might be that in the course of writing, your characters have taken on lives of their own (a good thing) and have kidnapped the book--snatched it off the path and taken it you-don't-quite-know-where-yet. If they've gotten too distant, i.e. you'd have to force back into this book and they so don't fit anymore, then it's another novel you need to write. So cannibalize the one you have.

Or maybe this novel was a drawer novel and as you get further along you realize that you needed to attempt a new form, a different genre, or a completely different way of writing--and that was your passion for setting off on this particular path. Now you may have learned what you wanted to learn and--poof--passion and commitment are gone. Again, go ahead and cannibalize.

Finally, you might come upon an enormous boulder or brick wall in the middle of the path and realize it's unpassable. Your plot doesn't work. Your characters have failed to engage you, so they won't anyone else. The writing just isn't there, for whatever reason.

But take heart, dear friends, and remember what W.B. Yeats said, "No work is ever wasted."

When do you give up on a work? Why? Do you ever regret the decision? Why? Do you ever return to the work and start all over? Or do you always move on? Or pull the good from it?

Monday, October 6, 2008

After the honeymoon

Or: when the path becomes a quagmire or has boulders blocking it, or thorned bushes growing close on each side.

In other words--you've picked a path and determined to go down it and you're going along and it gets nasty.

Part of the problem? If you think of each new idea as being like a first date--only unlike first dates, you already know that you adore the new idea. But it feels like the rush of first love, ah, romance. This is the one! Perfection! Joy! But of course as you continue to date and get deeper into a relationship and it becomes more complex and layered, hmmm.

And after the honeymoon, when you're slogging along thinking "Do I have to rewrite this scene AGAIN?" (Why do I always have to do the dishes?) or "I'm so sick of working on this painting, I can't stand to look at it" (She's not going to tell that same story AGAIN is she?) or "What am I doing out here in this wretched weather waiting to take a photo? (I hate golfing in the rain, but my honey loves to golf, so...).

Like everything else we commit to, we have to commit because sooner or later it becomes work, sometimes hard work. Although the passion is still there, it may be hard to feel it when you're slogging through the muck of a muddy path or clambering over huge boulders or wincing from thorns.

Okay, yes, I'm mixing analogies and metaphors and images, but you get the idea.

What to do when the road gets rocky or the first flush of passion is only a dim memory?

First, remember. Remember not just that first flush of excitement, but remember when you decided to commit to this particular work. Remember why. Remember the strength of that commitment. And remember the passion you felt.

Second, take a conscious break. Sometimes the way through the mud is to step out of it. Not for so long that you forget where you were on the path, or go down another one, but long enough to get another perspective (see, if I do this the path dries out).

Jump over the boulders. That's the amazing thing about any creative project, unlike paths and relationships, you don't have to be linear. You're not trapped in straight time. And we're creative people, we can think outside the box, or path, or relationship we have with the work. Struggling with your novel? Write the last scene, or another later scene, or rewrite an early scene and then return and see if that hasn't pathfound a way through.

Next post, when to give up and turn back and abandon the path or divorce it. Dave of Pics and Poems was right when he commented in the previous post But paths change. What looks promising is often disappointing...

What do you do when you hit a rough patch in a w.i.p.? Do you have any tricks or treats (it's October) that help?

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?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rewriting Pros and Cons

One Shot

Two Shot

Three Shot

So what are three cell phone photos of the same bouquet of flowers doing on a post about rewriting? Can you tell which one was taken first, second, last? (Hint, they're not in order.)

This post came about when several people on a listserve from the Donald Maass workshops mentioned about their fears/concerns about rewriting after attending a workshop. The main fear? "I thought I was the only one completely rewriting my w.i.p.!"

Why this fear? Why not be afraid that you'll never finish? And if you do it'll never be published? Aren't these bigger fears? Look to the photos for my answer. Which one was taken first? The best of the bunch, the three shot that's in focus and has the interest of the unusual salt-and-pepper shakers in the shot.

Therein lies the big rub--what if the first version is the best of the bunch? Has the most energy? That can happen--and as I said in previous posts, endless re-writing can destroy a w.i.p. How to know? How much is too much? How little is too little?

Perhaps a better question would be: should I only have taken the one photo? No. I had no way of knowing which photo would be the best of the bunch. Sometimes I even prefer the out-of-focus photos. You never know what you're going to get and what will succeed until you try several things.

Taking this idea over to drafts, do more than one and keep all of them. Go back when you have a tiny semblance of objectivity and see which one is better. Trust that your writing will improve with more writing. Trust the inner voice that says, "Enough."

Does this resonate with you? Do you limit your drafts or go by instinct to know when you're "done"? How about if you've attended a workshop, do you doubt or feel more confident?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Labor Day Wishes

August Sunflowers

A happy, fun and safe Labor Day Weekend to all my friends out there. And to those from all over the world who don't have Monday off--the same wishes for the weekend!

And a question for you creative types: do you work or not work, regardless of the day? Do you give yourselves a break? Or is your creative endeavor a break in itself?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stretch breaks for creative types

An August Sky

Summer is almost over. And that means a lot of things. Going back to school. Christmas is coming. Yes, it is hard to believe when it's 100 degrees outside, but Christmas for me means new students and new exercise classes. Which I've been working on new exercises for.

What does this have to do with creative types? The simple answer is sound body, sound mind. Perhaps a little too simple. But still true. So, given that creative types struggle with both and often stay in one position for far too long (especially writers) what to do?

Take a quick stretch break. Easy. Simple. Effective. Gets the blood and therefore creativity moving. Every hour at least, or more often if you need to re-focus, stretch.

Here's a few easy stretches:

Shrug: raise and lower your shoulders. Three to five times should help.
If that's not enough, then roll your shoulders, or circle them, both ways.
If you're sitting, stick both legs out straight, point your toes and then flex them back for up to 10 times, then circle each foot, both directions.
This one's good for avoiding carpel tunnel: circle your hands, "roll them on your wrists" both directions.

These are just a few quick movements you can do, any time, any place. Try it when the right word won't come to mind, when you don't know what little thing needs to be done on your project, or when the creative fatigue threatens.

For more exercises, visit my webpage

What do you do when you need a break? Do you take a break when you need one? Or get so focused that you push through--and what happens if you do that?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Other Perspectives Pro and Con

This is my s.o. Bruce, with a different perspective.

This subject seems to be in the blogging air. And it occurred to me while my niece, Katey, was visiting. Now Katey is a intelligent, engaged with life and engaging, passionate young woman of 22. And as such, she has her own unique perspectives, different from my own, on many things.

Then Beth of Beth's Adventures mentioned in her post about a piece of artwork painted on the wall of her new home. Very personal to the people living there before--and no doubt delightful to them. And Kathy of Well Placed Words in her post about Ambidextrous Writers discussed switching genres. When a writer does that, another perspective is created.

What are the pros and cons of different perspectives?

The pros are strong and an excellent reminder to keep the mind open. How many times have you've been brought to an epiphany by a different perspective: "Whoa, I never thought of it that way before?" Or "hey, that would work." Often, new vistas, new ideas, new paths open up with a different perspective: "Wow, I never saw it that way--that'd work."

The cons: well, a different perspective can be too personal. See Beth's Adventures above. It can be confusing and even dangerous to get too many or too diverse of different perspectives. For an example: a writer friend of mine always listens to other's opinions of her work. But open-minded willingness can go too far--as a consequence she never finishes anything, continually re-writing the same w.i.p.

So, what are some new perspectives you've noticed lately? And where have they led?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Glorious Distractions

Some delightful birthday flowers from my great friend Kathy of Well Placed Words.

Ah, glorious distractions of the summer! Glorious because they are so much fun. Some of mine include: birthday parties (many friends and relatives and myself), a niece's graduation, a different niece's visit, a convention, Fandemonium, where I taught a workshop on storyboarding, a film conference, my first, an upcoming workshop on writing manga and new fitness classes for mid-lifers to teach (my other day job, check out Delightfit for more).

Whew! All fun events/activities that I wanted to do and enjoyed doing. However, all distractions from the w.i.p. Distractions that sometimes assisted my current work, more about that in the next post--but also created a struggle to "stay in the work."

No time. No energy. The one thing I found helped, a bit, was to make certain I worked for 10-15 minutes a day, every day on my w.i.p. Not necessarily turning out pages, notes (even on scraps of paper if I was away from my laptop) worked as well.

Still difficult. So, dear readers, what do you do when awash with glorious distractions? How do you avoid getting possibly remote from a current and now uncurrent work? And what have your glorious distractions been this summer?

Monday, August 4, 2008

A test

I've been losing posts and comments on this blog (i.e. not being posted and disappearing) so this is a test.

With a pretty picture.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Organizing and Organic Organization

An example of organic organizing.

Organizing can be the bane of the creative person. We all generate a lot of ideas and with those ideas comes a lot of--stuff. Writers are awash in paper, artists too and musician's and photographer's and film maker's and dancer's lives are overflowing with the tools of their trade.

How to organize? Here's one way that works for a lot of creative people because it is organic. It grows with materials. Which is why daisies are a good example of organic organizing: they cluster. They grow out from the clusters, adding flowers from the central bed.

Organic organizing is putting like with like, associated with associated, clustering the items together. All paint brushes together in cans in a group. All scenes in one w.i.p. in files that are in the same group. All cameras together in one area or box. It's a more relaxed way of organizing that often works for creative people.

One main drawback: like daisies, organic organizing can overrun everything else. By adding and adding the organization can lose all meaning. (In daisies, they get too tight together and begin to die at the center.) So this is a loose and general organizing method than will need "thinning" from time to time.

What do you think? Would this type of organizing work for you? Or just add to the mess? Do you have a system that does work? If so, please share!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Maass Intensive, Switching Formats, Marketing and Contests

These seems like a lot of subjects. It isn't. It's the same subject. And it goes like this:

Donald Maass' High Tension Workshop was for novel writing. That doesn't matter. Why? Because it translates to all kinds of writing.

It's useful to switch formats. Trying something new and different can increase your ability in your regular writing. It's a challenge. It's also a way to re-energize your regular writing.

Writing for good contests (real prizes/awards, no entry or low entry fee, with a reputable publisher/group) can be another way to challenge and stimulate your writing.

If you pick a good contest to submit to and win a prize, this can help the marketing of your other work. And sometimes your other endeavors.

Which all brings me to a touch of BSP: I entered Tokyopop's "The Dreaming Writing Competition" and won First Prize! This is useful for a couple of reasons. First, my new w.i.p. is for YA Fantasy and writing a Manga style short story is related. Second, I'm teaching a class at the True North Creative Learning Center in August about--you guessed it--writing manga. Again for the YA market. Plus, I get cool artwork!

So readers, what do you think? About switching formats? About contests, pro or con?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth!!

Happy Fourth of July!

Okay, what are photos of wildflowers
doing on a post about the Fourth of July?

These photos are of wildflowers growing on the Oregon Trail, where pioneers walked, lived and died in order to realize their dreams.

The flowers grow wild and free.

What better way to wish everyone a wild and free day?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A few Great Bloggers

Summertime and Time for Celebration!

First, welcome back to Nancy of Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life to the blogger world. And Beth of Beth's Adventures inspired this post with her post about some excellent agent's blogs.

There is such a wealth of great information, great entertainment and fun reading in the blogosphere.

Here's a few of my favorites in no particular order:

Kathy has words to share and more at her blog Well Placed Words.

Swubird's stories will make you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time at Swubird's Nest.

Dave King of Pics and Poems has fabulous pics and poems.

The Muse of Inspired Day by Day is inspiring.

Jim Murdoch of The Truth About Lies is known to tell insightful truths.

Rebecca with her Cornish Dreamer, makes it clear through her photographs why she dreams of Cornwall.

These are just a few of my favorites, blogs I enjoy reading on a regular basis. Not all, just a taste. They are all different, fun and informative in their own unique ways.

What are some of your favorites?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Be a Switcher: Switch Creative Endeavors

Switch creative endeavors? Why? Why, when you work so hard to improve your writing, painting, photography or whatever, would you switch?

For a couple of reasons:

It's a mini-vacation, one that doesn't take you out of creative focus. A break that is refreshing and renewing and still keeps the juice flowing. Creativity is the same, no matter what you're creating.

The major benefit is creativity begets more creativity. Doing something different ramps up what you were doing before. Weird, huh? But think about it. I know that for myself, when I take photographs or make jewelry or write a film script instead of working on my novel, I get tons more inspiration for my w.i.p.! I suspect that working on something else frees up the subconscious to work on the main project.

Have you tried this? Do you have more than one creative passion? If so, what's been your experience?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Taking a Vacation: the Cons

My b.f. at the airport

In the previous post I discussed the pros of taking a break. Now for the other side.

One con of going on vacation should be obvious from the photo. Vacations can be fun but exhausting. Travel often requires a lot of attention and energy. It is sometimes hard on the body. So there can be a "recovery period" from rejuvenating! Odd but true.

The major con of vacationing: taking a break can remove you from the "creative space" you were in while working on your current project. It's more than a distraction sometimes, it can be a destruction of your focus. Sometimes it takes a while to "get back into" the work. To return to the creative state. Time and effort lost.

Worst effect of a vacation: Loss of the passion. If you return and then set aside the w.i.p. for no other reason than you've lost the energy to re-focus...ugh.

Have you had any of this happen to you after a break or vacation? If so, what did you do/not do to solve the problems?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Taking a break: the Pros

A Vacation View

Creative people often never want to take a vacation. Or take a vacation. Or if they do take a vacation, they make certain to drag along the work. But leaving the work behind and going on vacation or even taking a break of time away from creating has some gifts and benefits.

Some of these include: Gaining a perspective on the w.i.p. When we are always working, any ounce, any hope, any hint of objectivity is often lost. Getting away from it can refresh and renew our editing ability. Doing something completely different (i.e. a true vacation) enhances this ability.

Refilling the Well: When we're always working, we're always drawing from the well of our creativity. It can run dry. Taking a break helps refill the well. Having new experiences away from home can stimulate the creative process.

But the main thing that I noticed when I was returning from a week's vacation (having gone to my niece's graduation) was a renewal of my passion for my writing. I didn't expect to miss it so much and had forgotten how writing is my true life's passion. I wanted and needed to write by the end of the vacation--so much so that I ended up writing longhand in a notebook in the airports coming home! I returned to work with renewed enthusiasm and optimism.

Do you know of any other benefits of taking a break? Anything you've noticed during/after a vacation about your creative process?

Next: the cons.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


The hyacinth are in bloom which means...

...that it's time for graduation ceremonies. Okay, maybe that was a weak link to a pretty photo, but certainly the color is celebratory. Which is what I'll be doing for the next week, celebrating my niece's graduation!

So, I'll be back to blogging around June 6, no doubt with a post about what taking a short break from creative endeavors does for the creator.

Anybody else celebrating a transition?

Sunday, May 25, 2008


This post is inspired by my good friends and fellow bloggers posts, Kathy's post at Well Placed Words about Letting go is hard to do and the Muse's post at Inspired day by day on Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

It also follows the previous posting about knowing when to stop editing. The comments by Jim Murdoch and Swubird got me to thinking about "ownership." What is ownership? In writing, it's "owning" every word--in other words, it's being too engaged, too close, too much owning your writing. Every word is your hard won baby. It's tough, ownership--and not useful overall.

How to get rid of the dreaded "owning"? One way: write lots more. Hard to care about a word or sentence or paragraph when you've got thousands and thousands of them. Another: put a piece aside for at least 3 weeks (or more). Or perhaps the best way is exemplified by my mom's words (who was the wife of an artist and the mother of a writer): "Once you create it, it isn't yours anymore. It belongs to the reader, viewer, etc."

Do you catch yourself "owning" some of your work? If so, why?

Monday, May 19, 2008

When to stop editing

What Does this photo have to do with when to stop editing? Read on...

This is a photo that I took with my cell phone. This is the third attempt to get something because the light was bad and it was a cell phone. As you can tell--still not perfectly focused or centered, although the best of the bunch. I stopped after this attempt. Why?

Because after a certain point it's not worth the time to repeat and tweak a simple photo taken by a cell phone. Deciding when to stop editing can be the same decision process. When is it no longer worth the time or effort? How much importance does the creative piece possess? A poem may require more going over than a short story and a short story more than a novel. Or perhaps not.

Editing is necessary, essential, critical. But after several go-throughs far too often we can get caught in endless editing. A tweak here a tiny change there and at best we are creating a minor improvement. At worst, all the energy and freshness gets stripped out of the work.

So take a pause and ask, "How many times have I gone over this? Am I improving or only changing? Does this piece need another go-round or not?"

When do you stop editing? Never? Or do you have a fixed number of editing attempts?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Shifting from the outside in

Lilacs change moment to moment

Above are two photos of lilacs taken only a couple of days apart. Lilacs begin to wilt as soon as they are cut. So why even plant lilacs? Why bring the blooms inside? Granted, they give off a glorious smell, but still.

Could it be because they are so transient? Because they are a reminder of how fleeting beauty and therefore life is? And what does this have to do with shifting to success?

Because shifting is also changing. Yes, that sounds like only semantics, but it goes deeper than a different word. It's also a hint as to how to shift from the outside in.

When was the last time you changed anything in your workspace? Do something new--a new plant, move around the pictures, shift your laptop to a slightly different space. Put a different wallpaper on your monitor. Or even cell phone. Little changes, but they help "wake up the brain" to new possibilities.

When was the last time you tried something new to read? Tried a different way to write? Stepped out, in a small way, of your comfort zone? Done some tiny thing in a different way? Even walking in a different direction or driving to work can help the brain with larger paradigm shifts.

And finally--itsy-bitsy visualizations. Visual yourself finishing a chapter, or mailing a manuscript, or even hearing back with a positive response from an editor or agent. Be detailed with this tiny visualizing--glory in it, if you can.

Any and all of this will shift from the outside in.

What are some of the small changes you can think of to make?