Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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Envisioning a Fresh Perspective on the Writing Life

A writer suddenly finds herself being handed a bunch of flowers from her laptop.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Are you embarrassed to identify yourself as a writer? Have you had family or friends express concern over your writerly tendancies?

By the end of this post I hope to have changed your mind, and theirs.

Shaping Your Life as a Writer

Today I’ve got a guest post on Sharon Lippincott’s blog The Heart and Craft of Life Writing. Over the past couple of weeks Sharon and I have been discussing the intriguing abilities a writer has to write their own life – either after the event or even before the event.

It all started with a post she published entitled Write Where the Juice Is. In it she wrote about how doing scandalous things in your life provides your descendants with something to talk about when you’re gone. This seemed to me a fascinating way to approach life.

In the comments to that post, Sharon presented an even more fascinating way to live as a writer: by shaping your life for the page. In other words, deliberately making choices in your life that will provide you with writing fodder down the track. (I mention the whole comment in my guest post if you’re interested in reading it.)

Sharon and I discussed the idea in more depth together, which led to her post Living to Write the Tale and my post Writing as Fertilizer for Memory Seeds. Both of them are practical posts which got me thinking about our view of the writing life.

The Old Concept of the Writing Life

Over the centuries, the clichés of the writing life have built up. They sound something like the following:

Writers are recluses, socially inept people who are introverts (and can even turn into hermits if they are not monitored).

They ponder on things deeply, making them boring party companions and even worse spouses. They earn little and spend most of their time battling with writer’s block.  They drink unhealthy amounts of coffee and while away their afternoons on park benches.

When things go badly, they become melancholic, turn to alcohol and eventually end up mentally unbalanced or contemplating suicide.

Perhaps I’m taking every negative thing ever said and rolling it into one, but you know you’ve heard this stereotype before.

This concept of the writing life leads friends and family writers to fear for their loved one’s mental and emotional safety. They envision a life stunted of excitement and career growth. They may even believe that to be a writer is equivalent to throwing one’s life away.

Surely in this day and age we can envision a fresh concept.

The New Concept of the Writing Life

What if we began to view the writing life like this:

A writer is a person who embraces life – who seeks to experience it in all its colours, complexities and inconsistencies in order to capture it on paper. They absorb information through all their senses, and constantly search for fresh sources of inspiration.

They make wonderful party companions because they seek to understand other people’s points of view. They enrich the lives of those they are close to by earning people’s friendship and respect. They spend most of their time jotting down ideas and words – after which they reward themselves with chocolate and walks in the park.

When things go badly, they find fresh perspectives and turn negatives into positives. They are hardy people, who make the world a better place with their words.

This describes the writers I have met. Does it describe you?

Why not make the writing life into something joyous, something we can aspire to? Something that will promise a lifetime of promise rather than inevitable demise?

Instead of portraying ourselves as hard done by, ruled by the page and wracked with writer’s block, why not release ourselves into a lifelong journey of wonder as we search for the experiences and places that will eventually lead to words and stories?

Let your life as a writer create a compelling vision of enjoyment and a lifetime of fascination with the world and people around you.

You are a writer. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Grab the title with both hands and live your life like a writer!


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7 Ways to Change Your Mindset and Take Control of Your Writing Life

A woman riding her horse along a beach.

Taking the reins of your writing life! (Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art)

Do you feel you’re in control of your writing life?

Have you taken up the reins and set off in the direction you want to go?

Or are you waiting for someone to take you buy the hand and lead you out?

Over the past two weeks the Creativity’s Workshop Mailing List have been looking at how to write your own personalised pep talk. We’re discussing how we can use our own words to inspire our writing.

Last week we spent some time thinking about the following questions:

  • What do I need to hear?
  • What do I wish someone would say to me?
  • What are some of my favourite quotes?
  • What would be the most inspiring/comforting thing I could be told right now?

While thinking about these questions, it’s common for writers to realise that they’re looking for at least one of the following elements:

  • Comfort
  • Sympathy
  • Permission
  • Recognition
  • Approval
  • Inspiration
  • A place to start

If these sound familiar to you, then you’re not alone. These are things that just about every writer has needed at some point in their life.

The problem is that we all too often rely on other people to provide us with these things. We wait for permission, we search for inspiration and we crave approval.

By expecting other people to fill these needs, we hand the reins of our writing life to those who aren’t invested in our personal journey.

So what’s the answer?

The answer is to fill these needs ourselves. It may sound counter-intuitive or even impossible, but let’s look at each element individually and see how you can take back control of your writing life.

Comfort

Discomfort can come from something as simple as the wrong chair or something as complicated as deep disgust for the writing we’re producing.

Obviously, if your chair is causing your problems then that’s an easy fix – find yourself a new chair. But when the discomfort runs deeper than that, the solution may not be as forthcoming.

Often what is making us uncomfortable is not the situation itself, but our way of looking at the situation. By finding a new and positive way of looking at our writing we can regain comfort and satisfaction in our work.

For example, if you are disappointed in the writing you produce first thing in the morning, view that writing time as cleaning the bilge out of your writing pump before the clean words start flowing.

Give it a go: Choose an aspect of your writing that you find disappointing and then look for a positive slant. It may take a bit of practice, but you’re a writer – your job is to find new ways of describing and explaining a subject. Once you find a more positive way of looking at the situation, write it down in a pep talk so you can refer to it often.

Sympathy

Sometimes we just want someone to acknowledge that the writing life has it’s difficulties and that other writers battle with the same hurdles as we do. We want someone to put their arm around our shoulder and say, “I know, me too.”

Most writers are quite open about their difficulties, which can be a great benefit to the rest of us. Reading biographies and blogs by other writers can help us see we’re not alone when it comes to things like writer’s block, editing haze and other quirks of the writer’s life. It’s not unusual to find that a ‘great’ writer battled with similar insecurities to those we individually face.

For example, here’s a quote from Neil Gaiman that certainly made me feel better:

I feel uncertain about my writing all the time. I feel uncertain when I’m writing it, I feel uncertain when I’m editing it, I feel fairly uncertain when I’m sending it off to people, and then round about the point where I start feeling that it might be rather good, suddenly it feels like it was written by a different person a long time ago. If anyone has gone ‘If I was only Neil Gaiman, I’d feel certain about my writing’ then dream on . . .

Even if we can’t find similarities from these sources, we can still acknowledge the difficulties we personally face and take the time to appreciate how hard we’re working.

The only person who completely understands what you face is you. So give yourself a hug, a pat on the back and an encouraging smile.

Give it a go: Write down one of your biggest writing hurdles and describe how it makes you feel. Sit with that feeling for a few minutes and acknowledge the impact it has on you. Now write yourself a positive message to help you continue facing that problem with conviction.

Permission

From a very young age we’ve been taught to ask for permission – “May I leave the room, miss?” “Can I have another piece of pie?” The publishing world has also taught us that we need the permission of gatekeepers before our words see the light of day.

However, we now live in a world where blogs and self-publishing are commonplace. Are we still waiting for permission to start?

The reality is the first person (and often only person) who needs to give us permission is ourselves.

If we haven’t committed to a project, if we haven’t acknowledged that we can and should be writing, then we’ve withheld permission to begin. That roadblock is of our own making, and only we can tear it down.

Choosing a project and committing your attention to it is all the permission you need.

Give it a go: What would you do if you had permission? Write down your answer, then give yourself permission in writing. Sign your name at the bottom. Now go invest your time and energy in your new project!

Recognition

We want to be known as a writer. We want to be read by other people. We want to take our place in the writing world.

This sounds like the kind of recognition that can only be bestowed by other people, but first ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I identify myself to others as a writer?
  • Do I give the proper attention and time to my writing?
  • In other words, do I recognise myself as a writer?

Others won’t recognise you as a writer until you take yourself and your writing seriously. If you don’t call yourself a writer and act like a writer, how will others recognise you? The best way to get started is to give yourself a pep talk and get writing.

Give it a go: Start identifying yourself to others as a writer. The next time someone asks you what you go for a living, say you’re a writer. Make a poster declaring yourself a writer. Set aside time each day to write.

Approval

We want to shine in the eyes of others, especially those closest to us. It’s natural to want someone to say, “Well done. I’m proud of you.”

Unfortunately, relying on other people’s approval is like flying a kite – we will find ourselves continually at the mercy of elements outside of our control. The constant adjustments and sudden dips will never change.

This is why most children prefer remote controlled planes and helicopters. Under our own propulsion we have far more control.

Don’t wait for others to approve of you. Approve of yourself and keep moving forward. Shut down the voice of your inner critic and allow yourself to be proud of what you accomplish. When you reach the end of each day, find something (no matter how small) that you can say “Well done” about.

Give it a go: Make a list now of your recent accomplishments. Don’t focus on what went wrong with them, or what didn’t turn out exactly as you planned. Instead, spend your time patting yourself on the back for the progress you’ve made, the words you’ve created and the results of your hard work.

Inspiration

Ideas are essential to a writer. We seem to be at the mercy of that elusive spark.

However, inspiration is not as fickle as it first appears. By understanding our personal creative process and keeping our creative well topped up, we can place ourselves directly in inspiration’s path.

By using your personalised pep talk to maintain a positive outlook, and remind you of your creative routine, you can attract inspiration like bees to pollen.

Give it a go: Find an activity (be it reading a book, walking in a park, visiting a museum) that you find creatively rewarding. Regularly set aside time in your monthly schedule to feed your Creativity on high quality idea juice.

A Place to Start

Writing projects can tend to loom large on our horizon, especially when the excitement of a fresh idea wears off. We face a mountain of things to do without an idea of where to start.

But remember: All projects, no matter how huge, are completed in tiny steps. Even experienced writers still only write one word at a time.

If you’re not sure of where to start, keep breaking down your To Do List into smaller and smaller chunks until you find something you can start on. If you’re working on a first draft, start anywhere. Just get the first word on the page, and then the second. They’ll eventually add up.

If you don’t know how to do something, then start by learning. View reading a book on the subject or watching an online course as your place to start.

There’s nothing wrong with baby steps.

Give it a go: Start a To Do List for your project. Take each major task and break it down into smaller tasks until you find something you feel able to manage. Then get started on that task.

As you can see, what first appears to be out of our hands can often be within our control by simply changing our mindset. One of the best ways to do this is through a personalised pep talk, where you can get your new mindset down on paper.

What about you? Have you used a change of mindset to take control of your writing life? I love comments, so please share your thoughts.


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6 Tips for Writing With a Chronic Illness

A woman sick in bed...If only my hair looked like that when I was sick in bed...

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

I’ve been living with a chronic illness since 2007. Some days I feel almost normal, other days it’s a battle to get out of bed and make myself food for the day. This constant rollercoaster of energy, emotions and doctors’ appointments is an everyday occurrence for many people, writers included.

I usually don’t mention my health too much on this blog because it’s not the main theme of Creativity’s Workshop. However, over the past 6 weeks I’ve been through a rough patch with my health which has had a big impact on my ability to write.

I went looking online for writing tips for people suffering with illness. There didn’t seem to be that much practical information out there. While “If you wouldn’t go to work feeling this way, then don’t write” may be great advice for those dealing with the flu or other acute circumstances, most people with chronic illness aren’t able to go to work anyway.

So I have compiled a list of 6 tips that I found helped me personally. If you know of any other tips or posts on this subject, please add them below in the comments. I’d love for this post to become a good resource for other writers in this situation.

Tip 1: Know How Much Energy You Need for Each Task

Some writing tasks require a lot of mental energy and clarity. Other tasks can be done on auto pilot. The trick is to match each task with the amount of energy you have on hand at the time.

For example, I find writing first drafts of novels or blog posts requires a great deal of mental clarity. However, doing a final edit on a blog post requires a lot less energy. I usually have a clearer head in the morning, so that’s the time I schedule my quality writing time. Editing can be done during my afternoon slump.

I also keep a Slow Day List going where I write down any kind of task I can do when I’m feeling below par. The list contains tasks like:

  • Finding images for my blog posts.
  • Pinning images on Pinterest.
  • Social media, e.g. chatting and retweating on Twitter.
  • Mocking up cover art for my upcoming short story collection.
  • Tweaking sign up forms.
  • Reading a book about writing.

This list serves two purposes.

  • Firstly, it helps me keep my priorities straight so I spend my valuable energy where it’s going to do the most good. If I’m feeling well, I won’t allow myself to be distracted by the things on my slow day list.
  • Secondly, it helps me remain calm when I’m having a slow day. Rather than thinking about what I would be doing if I had the energy, I know I can still be useful by doing the tasks I’ve already set aside.

It’s a waste to do a low energy, monotonous task when you’ve got the energy to do a more complex task. It’s also not worth driving yourself into the ground doing high energy tasks when your health has taken a dip. Take note of your ups and downs so you can plan around them, rather than trying to plough through them.

Tip 2: Do Important Things Before They Become Urgent

Rushing to complete a blog post or a newsletter creates stress, which causes you to burn more energy than necessary. By planning and perhaps even completing things before they become urgent, you can not only create a buffer between you and your deadlines but also produce higher quality work.

For example, instead of trying to work out the title and subject of your blog post a hour before it’s due to go up, why not spend a little time the week before outlining the main points you want to cover? Then, even if you do have an energy slump, you still have notes to help you write.

There are many ways you can create a buffer between you and deadlines. You could:

  • Brainstorm ideas for upcoming posts or even create a series of posts to develop the subject. This will give your blog more cohesion and direction.
  • Keep a notebook of ideas for posts and points you want to cover. When you’re feeling mentally hazy, you can look back over your notes without having to come up with a fresh idea.
  • Write the first draft of your posts in advance so you only need to do a little clean up work before publishing.
  • Use the schedule feature on your blog to organise your posts and take the stress out of remembering when to publish.

By changing your mindset and routine, you can actually reduce your stress (and therefore reduce your energy output) while increasing the value and quality of your writing.

Tip 3: Have Backup Plans

There will always be bad days that catch you unawares. On those days you’ll need to rest. When you’re in that situation, it’s good to have a backup plan.

For example, if you’ve got a blog you could:

  • Prepare a few blog posts that aren’t time sensitive so you can publish them whenever you need them.
  • Keep a record of the best writing posts and articles you’ve read recently. Then, when you’re having a bad day you could publish a post with links through to other articles your readers might enjoy.
  • Ask a blogging friend to guest post for you that week.

If you’re working on a novel you could:

  • Research some details you need for your story.
  • Create a vision board.
  • Create a storyboard.
  • Find photos of the characters or locations in your story.

With chronic illness, bad days are inevitable. Be flexible and change tack if necessary.

Tip 4: Maintain Motivation Through Positive Means

When you’re not able to accomplish everything you’d planned it’s easy to get frustrated, perhaps even giving yourself a ‘stern talking to’ in the hope it will keep you going. But goading yourself into further work isn’t the answer.

Guilting yourself into doing things will only work temporarily, and you’ll feel dreadful while you’re doing it. Muscling past haze and fatigue may actually be more damaging in the long run.

Instead, keep yourself motivated by being positive. Remind yourself why you love writing. Believe in what you are writing. Envision how things will eventually turn out and then focus only on the next little step you need to take.

The old adage is true: You can catch far more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Don’t beat yourself up over what you haven’t yet accomplished. Inspire yourself to keep going.

Tip 5: Connect With People

Most people who are dealing with chronic illness spend a lot of time at home. Some are housebound or even bedridden. For most of us, though, modern technology allows us to connect with people without needing to leave the comforts of our home.

Both writing and illness can lead to isolation, so it’s important to actively seek to communicate and connect with a community. E-mailing fellow writers, reading and commenting on people’s blogs, using social media wisely – all these things can help you become part of a community and keep the focus of your attention away from your illness for a while.

For a writer to truly do good work they need to see the world from many different perspectives, if only to see their own lives in detail. So set aside time in your schedule to interact with the great and varied world outside your door.

Tip 6: Set Up a Schedule You Can Maintain

Finally, the most important thing is to keep a sustainable schedule. A cycle of boom and bust (where you manage heaps of stuff one day and then can’t get out of bed the next) isn’t kind to your body and could make your illness worse.

Be reasonable in what you expect from yourself. Celebrate what you’ve managed to do each day (even if it’s only a small thing) and allow room in your schedule to move things around if need be.

At the end of each week, look back over what you’ve accomplished. Remember the positive things you’ve done and try not to dwell on the negatives.

After all, there’s always tomorrow. 😉

What about you? How do you cope with days when you aren’t functioning at your best? I really want this post to be a resource for other writers in similar situations so please add your comments.

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Since writing the above I’ve come across the following helpful posts on this subject:

Kristine Kathryn Rusch – Freelancer’s Survival Guide: Illness


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The Advantages of Writing Fewer Words

A pile of sticky notes in interesting colours.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Today I’m guest posting over at Victoria Grefer’s blog, Creative Writing with the Crimson League. The post is about Sustaining Your Creativity During Fiction Withdrawals. Pop over and take a look.

Writing thousands of words a day is a great feeling. I love NaNoWriMo and I admire writers who can pump out multiple novels a year.

However, there are times when we cannot write thousands of words a day. Perhaps because we’re working on other projects or life has got in the way for some reason. If you’re facing one of these problems, don’t make the mistake of believing you can’t get your writing done. You do both yourself and your Creativity a disservice.

In my guest post today, I mentioned spending 500 words or 1/2 hour on your manuscript each day. This may sound insignificant compared to the thousands of words you may have written in the past, but writing fewer words can have some interesting benefits.

Here are four advantages to this writing habit.

It Keeps Your Creativity in Shape

This is the most obvious benefit. When you write regularly, your words flow much more easily and your Creativity remains active.

By turning up to the page at the same time with the same expectations every day, you’re training your Creativity to expect routine. Once you’re in that routine, your Creativity will turn up consistently and promptly ready to participate. (Trust me. This does work! For more information, see Creativity on Demand.)

It Changes the Dynamic of the Process

Most of us are used to pouring words onto the page and coming back later to make sense of them. First drafts are fantastically freeing in that way. When we are aiming for over a thousand words, we fill our pages up with all sorts of interesting sentences.

While there is definitely a place for large word counts, by limiting the number of words you have to produce your attention turns from the volume of words to the craft of writing. It’s an intriguing shift which you can use to your advantage.

It Forces You to Make Words Count

You have 500 words to play with today. What interesting things will you pack into those words? What will you describe? What will your characters say? Approach your page with excitement to see where those 500 words will take you.

Instead of trying to form a whole scene in one sitting, look for layers of meaning and hidden details that will make these 500 words matter to the story. Read back over what you’ve written before to get the flow and then craft the next little section of your story.

It Encourages You to do it Daily

Writing thousands of words takes time, and therefore when we’re having a busy day our writing time can often be the first thing to go. But if your goal is much smaller, you’re more likely to fit it into your day.

Knowing you’ll only be spending 1/2 an hour (or less) on your writing means you’re more likely to find time to do it every day, because you know you’ll have time to do other things afterwards.

Having said all this, it’s worth remembering that everyone’s process and Creativity are different. For some people, writing has to be an all or nothing affair. It should also be said that different writing projects require different methods. Some of your stories need to be written in large chunks. Writing them little bit by little bit won’t work.

But if you’re in the middle of Fiction Withdrawals, and you’re not able to write as many words as you would like, don’t give up on your writing. Continue trying different things to keep both you and your Creativity active.

What’s your writing routine like? How many words do you average a day?


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How the Act of Writing Changes Your Ideas

A man writing while sitting atop a rock. I hope he doesn't drop his pen.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Outlining is great. I love it.

I have a noticeboard above my desk with three different storyboards in varying stages of completion. I map out story arcs. I put a lot of thought into something before I write it.

However, last week something happened during my writing that really shook me up.

How do Words Get on the Page?

First of all, let me take a slight detour past an excellent post you have to read. It’s by Charlotte Rains Dixon entitled How Words Get on the Page. I was going to save this link up for my recap at the end of the month, but it was just too good to wait. Go read it now!

Her main point is:

…magic happens when we engage with the words. That writing gets done when we write…So next time you’re stuck, try writing instead of staring out the window. Trust me, it actually does work.

It’s true. Words get on the page through the act of writing. That’s the only way.

We can have the most incredible ideas floating around in our head, but it’s only once we get them onto the page that we see them in all their glory.

Sometimes an idea that seemed pretty ho-hum in your head comes into its own when it finally appears on the page. At times like that, you can be shocked by the strength of the end result.

I Didn’t See It Coming Until the Last Word

Last week I started a new writing project.

Yes, I’m editing my short story collection of self-pubbing later on this year (in fact I’m looking for beta readers this month so if you’re interested then let me know). However, I’m finding that during the editing process I need to have another first draft on the go to keep my words flowing.

Anyway, the concept of this new writing project had been on my mind for some time. It was a quaint idea but I wasn’t sure if it would actually work on the page. The only way to find out was to write it down.

So I started writing. The first day I only wrote 100 words or so of very ordinary stuff. My inner editor jumped in and reminded me this concept was a long shot.

The second day was a whole different experience. I wrote just over 500 words. In that time a brand new character sprung into life with all the elements I’d been thinking about and one notable addition.

She had a deeper motivation than I had ever realised. That motivation suddenly made the whole premise of the book fall into place and gave me a stunning character arc.

And I mean ‘stunning’ in a very literal sense. I was stunned, short of breath and on the verge of tears. Not the happy, excited type of tears either. They were tears of empathy for this sudden creation. I had, in a very short space of page, uncovered a deep emotional centre to my new character.

The concept I’d been carrying around in my head was okay, but when the words came onto the page the idea became a whole different thing – a much richer and more touching story. I would never have seen this aspect to it if I’d spent that time outlining instead.

So, while I’m still a great believer in outlines, the truth is words get on the page through writing. I can discover so much about characters and plot on the page as I write.

Taking Creative Action

Do you have an idea floating around in your head – an idea you’re not sure will actually work on the page?

Have you tried writing it down?

Spend some time this week putting that idea into words on the page. Not just conceptial words, but actual narrative. Give your Creativity some space to experiment and watch what happens in front of you.

It may not happen right away, but I guarantee it will eventually give you some kind of insight you wouldn’t have got any other way.

What about you? Have you had a similar experience when putting words on the page?


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4 Ways House Sitting Improved My Writing

A couch that's actually a swing. My kind of place! (Although this is just clip art so I didn't get one of my own to try out while house sitting.)

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Today I’m guest posting over at K.M. Weiland’s blog Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors. My post is called What House Sitting Teaches You About Writing and covers how to use a character’s belongings to reveal their personality. Head over there and take a look!

For the past four weeks my husband and I have been house sitting. A change is indeed as good as a holiday and we had a great time.

You may remember an earlier post mentioned some of the goals I had in mind for the month. The good news is I managed most of them.

Let me give you a brief recap of the things I learned or was reminded about during our ‘house sitting adventure.’

Change Sparks Creativity

I was overwhelmed by how creative I suddenly felt in new surroundings. Possibilities seemed endless and new discoveries were everywhere. As Creativity pointed out in her post there was plenty to distract, but the distractions were all part of the wonder of being exposed to new things.

The intial spark of excitement only lasts a week or two and then the house felt like home, but it reminded me to soak up everything that excites my Creativity and run with it while the joy is there.

‘Change sparks Creativity’ is a great thing to remember when you’re feeling blocked or stale in your writing. Change, even in small ways, does boost your Creativity and often you’re in control of when and how you bring that change about.

Sunshine is a Great Start to the Day

One of my goals for the month was to start the morning by having breakfast outside. Of course, the weather didn’t make that possible every day, but I definitely noticed a difference on the days I managed to drink in the rays (I stress I did this in the early morning before the UV index climbed too high).

I saw a great quote yesterday from Rasheed Ogunlaru which sums this up. He said:

Take a walk outside — it will serve you far more than pacing around in your mind.

As writers, we probably spend far too much time indoors and at our desks pacing around in our minds. When you’re feeling lethargic and uninspired, invest in some fresh air, movement and sunshine.

Remember, change sparks Creativity – even small changes. Stepping outside may be just the level of change your Creativity needs to start firing again.

Objects Can Tell You So Much About a Person

This is probably the biggest thing I learned during the month but you’ll have to go over to Wordplay to read my guest post about it.

Creativity Needs to be Integrated Into Your Life

The sparks of my Creativity didn’t just help my writing , they also entered other areas of my life – like cooking.

My goal was to have four successful new recipes. I had several ‘interesting’ recipe attempts that, while still edible, shall not be repeated. I did end up with one very good recipe that I’m happy to pass on to friends and family. One out of four is not bad.

But the point is that to be creative in one area of your life means you have to be open to your Creativity having opinions and input on other areas of your life. In fact, you want your Creativity to be present in as many different parts of your day as possible. (I’m not the only writer who feels this way. Charlotte Rains Dixon wrote about the topic this week too.)

Creativity is not something you can switch on and off. It’s a part of yourself that you can nuture, encourage and listen to. You can build trust and understanding in your Creativity and grow together to become more and more creative.

There are plenty more things I learned during house sitting (like cats are evil, washing machines are destructive and deciduous trees are only beautiful when they’re not dropping leaves in your garden…although I already knew that last one) but I’ll spare you the details.

Have you experienced some kind of change during this past month? Have you noticed an impact on your Creativity?

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If you’d like to find out more about how to be creative whenever and where ever you want, download my free e-book Creativity on Demand.


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Should You Brainstorm With Other Writers?

A pile of light bulbs with one bulb lit up, causing the viewer to wonder if light is contagious.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Most of us prefer to keep our writing ideas close to our chest until we’ve spent a lot of quality time putting our thoughts on paper.

Even then, we may be hesitant to let other people see our work in case they say something we don’t feel comfortable with. Often we don’t show others our work until it’s nearing completion.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach. If you feel you need to keep your ideas to yourself so they can grow in protected shelter, then that’s fine.

But each project is different. Sometimes there are ideas that dangle in front of us saying ‘write me one day’ but don’t grow any further. No matter how many different ways we look at the idea, we just can’t get a handle on the next step.

If you’ve got one of those ideas hidden away, why not try brainstorming with other writers or creatives?

Does It Actually Work?

I am writing this post minutes after witnessing brainstorming in action. My brother is a talented writer who has been focusing on crafting engaging loglines. Today, while my father and I were standing in the kitchen, he read out a logline he’d had tucked away for a while.

I’d heard the logline before and thought it was brilliant, but it was the first time my father had been exposed to the pitch. He latched on to the idea and started throwing out extra elements to weave into the concept.

It wasn’t long before all three of us were creating a complicated world in which this story could exist. Within half an hour we’d gone from logline to a basic outline complete with a surprise twist for the ending. The energy in the room was electric, as if ideas were drawn from the air to our creative static. We were three very excited people with three very happy Creativities.

My brother is now in the next room scribbling down all the stuff we talked about, finally able to do something with a logline he’s had for months.

Pros and Cons

As with any decision to do with you Creativity and your writing, you need to decide what works best for you. Weigh up the following pros and cons to see if you and your Creativity would be comfortable in a brainstorming situation.

The pros are:

  • Brainstorming can reveal potential in your ideas and take you in directions you would never have thought of by yourself.
  • During the process you may find plot holes that you wouldn’t have noticed until much further down the track.
  • A brainstorming session could lead to writing collaborations if your fellow brainstormer is excited about the project.

The cons are:

  • You may feel overwhelmed by all the ideas being discussed and start to worry about the scope of what you’re committing to.
  • You may feel like your fellow brainstormers are running away with the discussion and leaving you behind. You may eventually feel like the story no longer belongs to you.
  • Your fellow brainstormers may feel a sense of ownership over the story once the session has finished.

Brainstorming Reminders

If you want to try brainstorming ideas with others, then keep the following pointers in mind.

Choose the right people

If you want someone to brainstorm a story with you, then that person needs to be:

  • Experienced in writing, story and character building. They need to have at least some of the skills of a writer/storyteller, otherwise their suggestions may not be strong enough to build on (and trust me, in a good brainstorming session the story builds very fast).
  • Flexible and respectful. Brainstorming sessions can become a little heated at times when people have conflicting ideas on where the story should be headed. You want to be working with a person who respects your right as a writer to have the final say over where your story goes.
  • Willing to participate. If they don’t feel comfortable giving out ideas that you might use and publish, then it’s better not to start brainstorming at all. You don’t want to end up in legal problems sometime down the track.

Speak up for yourself

Remember, this is your story and you’re the one who will be working on it (unless your brainstorming session leads to a writing collaboration). So speak up when you feel the story is going off track or you don’t agree to an element that’s been suggested.

Remain engaged in the process and don’t let the other brainstormers run off with your story and leave you behind.

Keep an open mind

At times the discussion will go into areas you hadn’t envisioned for this story. Don’t discount these detours right away. They may help you find a whole new story or a story element which is stronger and more exciting than your original concept.

Writing is a journey of discovery and brainstorming is a wonderful chance to branch out into the unknown. After all, you’re only spending an hour or two on this journey, so what’s the harm in seeing where it takes you?

Keep notes

Either keep notes during the brainstorming session or write everything down as soon as possible after the session. Ideas flitter away quicker than you expect, so make sure you’re capturing them (perhaps even create an audio recording so you can go back and check points).

After the session, you’ll still have residual pep from the experience and you may find extra ideas appearing as you write. Don’t miss this opportunity to go further with your story. You can always cull your notes later when the calmness of reason returns.

You don’t have to use everything you discussed

Just because you and your friend talked about something, doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. Once you get back to the page, it’s just you and the story. Remain true to where that story needs to go, even if it diverges from what you decided during your brainstorming session.

What you come up with in the frenzy of brainstorming might not work in the coolness of hindsight. That’s okay. The session got you the fire you needed and gave you extra ideas to play with. But the journey doesn’t stop there. It continues onto the page and throughout your writing process.

Is It Worth It?

Whether brainstorming works for you and your Creativity is a matter for you to decide. Hopefully this post has given you an opportunity to think about the subject.

If you’re not sure whether it would suit you, perhaps try brainstorming a small idea with a trusted writing friend and see how it goes. If you feel comfortable, you could try something bigger next time.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Have you ever tried brainstorming ideas with others? Are there any points I didn’t cover? I can’t wait to hear what you have to say on the subject.


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Are You Suffering From These 3 Hidden Writing Blocks?

A woman sitting at her laptop in a not so ergonomically friendly position. I wonder how much writing she'll get done..

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Writing blocks are a controversial subject. Is there such a thing as writer’s block? Many would say yes. Some would say no.

I’m not here to weigh in on that debate. I’m here for another reason.

I’ve found three things which do impact on writing and which will not get better simply by doing a bunch of extra writing exercises.

To get past these three problems you first have to know they exist and then work to fix them.

So what are they?

Uncomfortable Writing Spaces

We all get that antsy feeling from time to time when we don’t want to write. We’re sitting in front of the page and we shift in our seat, stretch our necks and sigh a bit.

Okay, sometimes that’s just procrastination. But sometimes there’s more to it.

So try sitting in your writing space and check the following:

  • Is the temperature comfortable? Not too hot and not too cold? (Hey, Goldilocks had a point.)
  • Is your chair the right height? Is your computer set up in the right place? Check these ergonomic guidelines.
  • If you’re writing by hand, is your pen digging into your finger? Could you get yourself a more comfortable pen?
  • Do you get cramps in your hands when you write? If you’re writing by hand, could you be gripping your pen too firmly? If you’re typing, could you use a wrist rest?
  • Is there sufficient lighting? Could you do with a brighter bulb, a new lamp or perhaps different curtains?

All these things have an effect on your comfort and therefore the patience you have for your writing.

Eyesight Problems

When was the last time you had your eyes tested?

Recently, I realised I’d been suffering from headaches, muscle tension and eye strain. I went to the optometrist and found out I needed new glasses.

Once my eyes (eventually!) adjusted to the new prescription, I was surprised by how much easier it was to sit in front of the computer and write for longer periods of time. My eyesight had slowly been affecting my quality of work without me even realising it.

As a writer, your eyes are an important part of your everyday tools. In the same way that a mechanic will maintain his tool kit, you need to make sure your eyes are functioning at tip-top efficiency.

Emotional Strains

There is always an emotional component to writing, especially when you are having trouble writing. I didn’t realise how much of an effect those emotional components had on writing until I read The Writer’s Portable Therapist by Rachael Ballon.

If you still find you’re having difficulty writing, it’s definitely worth a read. We writers pour our hearts onto the page, but if our emotions are working against us then writing becomes a whole lot harder!

Those emotions don’t just magically fix themselves up by you tying yourself to a chair and forcing the words out. Sometimes you have to spend some time examining yourself and understanding your inner nemesis before you can continue.

What about you? Have you found any of the above affecting your writing?

By the way, my new e-book Creativity on Demand has a section on how you can create you own personalized solutions to writer’s block. If you haven’t had a look at it yet, why not download it now?


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3 Pinterest Boards Designed to Inspire Your Writing

I’ve had a pretty rubbish week healthwise, so I’m not yet ready to release my new e-book. It’s still in the works and will be appearing soon. In the meantime I’ve got plenty of other stuff to share.

Pinterest has taken the world by storm and it’s an addictive way to spend your time online.

As writers, we try not to allow too many distractions keep us from the page, but there are days (like I’ve had this week) when the page is not our friend.

We need some fresh inspiration to keep us and our Creativity going. Pinterest offers plenty of opportunities if you know what you’re looking for.

Many people use Pinterest to find great writing quotes, but that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Here are three Pinterest boards I’ve put together to get you writing again.

Pinterest-Visual-Writing-PromptsVisual Writing Prompts

We’re all familiar with writing prompts and how much fun they are to use. However, writing prompts come in many different forms.

Images make great writing prompts. They provide us with an immediate mental picture to work with. They can also evoke memories and emotional responses. Sounds like fantastic writing fodder, doesn’t it?

What should you look for in a visual writing prompt? The simple answer is: Anything that captures your curiosity. Anything that makes your Creativity sit up and take an interest in proceedings.

Wanna have a try? I’ve created a Visual Writing Prompts board to get you started.

Pinterest-World-BuildingWorld Building

Location and setting are very important when writing. But sometimes we find ourselves short of ideas. It can be difficult to describe a place’s unique elements when you don’t have some kind of image in front of you.

Pinterest provides a plethora of images from all over the globe for your viewing pleasure. There’s everything from basic bedrooms and kitchens to landscapes alien enough for even the most hardcore sci-fi writers.

If you’re stuck on where to set your scene, have a look at my World Building board for some ideas.

Pinterest-Caption-ThisCaption Images

If a story is too much for you to contemplate right now, why not aim for just a sentence or two?

One of my favourite games is ‘Caption This’ where you’re given an image and you have to come up with a caption which puts the image into words, or provides a back story to what you see. As a writer, it’s a fantastic creative warm up.

Of course, not everyone will appreciate you captioning their images, so I suggest you either create your own board especially for the game or pop over to my Caption This… board and join in the fun.

I’m sure there are heaps of other ways you can use Pinterest to inspire your writing. What’s you’re favourite way? Let us know in the comments with a link to your boards!


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The Life of a Writer – Kate Harrison

In a comment on my previous post, mrkelly2u mentioned he’d recently made an 8 minute documentary. It’s called The Life of a Writer and interviews author Kate Harrison.

It’s beautifully put together and captures some important moments of a writer’s life.

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a few minutes to watch.

I think in some respects the writer’s life is going through a state of change with the rise in self-publishing. It would be interesting to see what a similar documentary would be like in 5 to 10 years.

What are your thoughts on the documentary? Let me know in the comments.