Archives For Creativity

Posts or articles that discuss ways to nurture the artist in you and increase creativity.

Blog Housekeeping:

Our format for this blog has generally been One Topic, Three Ways. We pick a theme and then we each write our POV on it. If you are finding us again after our hiatus, welcome back! We are still taking this same format, but are cutting back our frequency so that each of us takes a week to be responsible for the blog, with the last week of the month up for grabs to whoever has extra news to share.

Author Crush:

And while I’m reminiscing, let me remind you that February has traditionally been our Author Crush Month. To review past guest blogs of the month, check out the Author Crush archive tab above, or click here for the list. I’ve made a pin-able Author Crush graphic for you Pinterest folks out there.

Writing Influences:

Instead of guest blogs we are talking about writing influences this month. For me, this goes back to my childhood. I’ve had so many favorite authors over the years, but if I had to choose just one who influences how I view YA books today, I’d have to pick L.M. Montgomery who was published in the early 1900s.

Now, her writing style would be hard to carry off in today’s fast-paced, media-influenced world. I’m sure most agents and editors, even those who love the Anne books, would be reluctant to touch a book written in that style today. Too much purple prose, even if that’s what makes the main character so charming.

What carries over for me is the mood. The tone. The feeling I get when I read her work. Her books make me want to curl up on a big comfy couch with a quilt and a cup of tea and simply disappear for a few hours. They’re cozy books. Romantic books. Evergreen books.

Even her diaries are fun to read. You can find out how she was influenced by her everyday life when you read her diaries. My diaries? At some point I went back in and scribbled out all the interesting bits. Wish I hadn’t! I would love to read what I was really thinking back in the day.

Trying to capture the mood of the Anne books, I started an Anne of Green Gables Pinterest board here:
http://www.pinterest.com/shonnaslayton/anne-girl/


“Write what you know” may be one of the most common bits of advice given to writers over time. Once we’ve heard it enough and think we understand it, we spout the words ourselves.

When I thought about what I know, I started writing romances. Happily married for over a decade at the time I began, I figured what better for me to write about. I read hundreds of romance novels and started writing, aiming for the mainstream romance audience. I didn’t want to write about sex, so I switched to inspirational romances. When I read a bunch of those…well, let’s just say that the ones I read at the time didn’t interest me.

j0316779Nonetheless, I didn’t think I really “knew” much about anything interesting. I grew up in a small town. I went to an Ivy League University where I dropped out after a year to “change the world” in the Marine Corps. I got shipped home after three months when I hurt my knee. I met a young man, chased after him relentlessly, and got married.

And that’s pretty much it.

I kept writing romances because I wanted to write for a living, my own life had a lot of romance in it, and romance novels were 45% of the paperback market. I finally found a place for the voice I’d been trying to hide (you know, because you need to make your story voice fit into the category of romances you’re pitching to) when chick lit came into vogue. I wrote a chick lit book that got some very positive attention – right about the time chick lit collapsed.

After some internal struggles – I’m a Christian but I can’t seem to write inspirational novels that I like that publishers like, I’m madly in love with my college sweetheart but I get bored with stories that are only about the romance, I’d like to spend all my time writing but even if I signed with a Big Six publisher I’d have to spend a huge amount of time marketing and promoting – I finally made a decision.

I decided to take a step back and think about what I REALLY wanted to write, no matter what, and then I’d write it and publish it myself.

I’ve been walking that path for the last two and a half years. It’s been a slow road, but a really good one. And listening to a workshop by Donald Maass recently put the “write what you know” advice in clearer perspective. Don suggested questions like, what am I as the author passionate about? What do I as the author think is so important that my readers must get it? What about my story makes me as the author crazy angry?

That’s when it really came together for me. I’m unabashedly passionate about love that lasts forever. I get really upset about people who are unfair or mean. I think it’s super important that my readers understand they always have a choice – good or bad, right or wrong, easy or difficult.

These are the sorts of things I always knew I was writing about. I just didn’t realize until recently that this is what people meant when they said, “Write what you know.” Another way to say it might be, “Write what you know to be true.”

Now that I’ve got that clearly in mind, my writing is going to be stronger than ever.

What about your writing?

New beginnings. Lots of new beginnings happening here at Routines for Writers. Kitty has self-published two books and is working on others; Shonna’s book will be published soon; we have a new look here at RFW; and, now, a renewed commitment to regular postings. The schedule is a little changed, with only one post a month from each of us, but we do plan to keep you apprised of what we are doing and what we are learning in our journeys as writers.

Some of you may be long-time followers from before almost 2 years ago when we decided to discontinue regular postings. (Welcome back!) Most of you probably weren’t. (We’re glad you found us now. Welcome!) You may or may not know that I went through a difficult time about three years ago. More precisely, many negative aspects of my life culminated to a crisis point three years ago. (I may write about that more specifically later, but this post is about where I’m going, not where I’ve been.) My creativity was a casualty of that crisis. Along with my self-confidence, motivation, financial security, life dreams, and more. Try as I would, I found it harder and harder to string words together into meaningful sentences, much less creative, compelling and interesting ones.

I spent many months floundering, with no clear idea of what to do. (I’ve since realized that was a normal and necessary part of the healing process.) During all that floundering, I made the decision to return to school. (I reasoned that any degree was better than no degree.) Because of a previous interest and limited success in web design, I chose to pursue a degree in “Design, Technology and Innovation” at Troy University. (The university in the town where I live.) The beginning art courses I had to take (Drawing, Form and Space, Time and Space, eDrawing) were instrumental to my emotional and creative recovery. (I’m still healing, of course, but much more able to live life intentionally and to the fullest.)

Those courses gave me specific assignments to accomplish while I worked in mediums unfamiliar to me. I had to create new methods of working, learn new ways of doing unfamiliar things and experience my creative cycle in new environments.While working through all those unfamiliar assignments, I discovered insights into my creative process. Insights that apply to my entire life. Most important among those insights is that a part of my creative cycle includes a dark time when I am convinced I will fail at the current project. Along with that certainty comes a plethora of internal negative voices, often sounding quite reasonable, berating, discouraging and ridiculing me for being stupid enough to even try, much less think I can succeed.) Pushing through that certainty, combating those negative voices with facts or with just the plain stubborn decision not to quit, almost always results in an astounding success or breakthrough. Usually the very next time I return to the project. (Taking that break is also an integral part of my process.)

Step by step, I’m rebuilding my life and my dreams. I still have at least three semesters left before I obtain a degree, but that is only a portion of the plans and dreams being rediscovered, reignited and reimagined. This semester I am enrolled in several classes that will be stretching and expanding my skills in design and communication. In my Design for the Internet, I’ll be learning Dreamweaver and designing several websites. Another class requires that I create and maintain a blog. If you want to follow my progress there, go to AnotherVoiceOnTheWeb.wordpress.com. I’m also taking an ePublishing class, with a goal that we will write and format a 30-40 page book, which we will upload to Amazon. Of course, I’ll announce that here when it is available. (Not completely sure of the topic. Most likely, either Christian Feminism or Homeschooling.)

Along with the progress toward my degree and the discovery of new outlets of creativity, I’m tentatively returning to my fiction writing. It’s mostly journal entries and snippets of scenes, but that aspect of my imagination is returning to life. In sleeping dreams or waking thoughts, that creative voice is gaining strength as I heal emotionally and creatively. It’s good to be back!

Hello Friends!

Shonna and Stephanie and I are looking into ways we can continue to be of service to you. We’ll be putting up occasional posts about things that may be helpful, so please continue to check in at Routines for Writers. Soon I’ll be announcing a new class that I’ll be teaching in the fall. It will be a video-based class on how to self-publish your book. Details will be posted on the Classes page on my own web site.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to announce the winners of the Goodreads Giveaway that ran from mid-June to mid-July. All ten winners received an autographed print copy of Unexpected Superhero. (Books should have already arrived at your homes by now, my friends!)

Thank you to the other 662 people who entered the giveaway! I’m so pleased that you were interested in reading the book. Thank you for adding Unexpected Superhero to your To Be Read queue.

Super_ip09_FINALCongratulations to -
Jessica from Brampton, Ontario
Trannae from San Dimas, California
Wendy from Abilene, Kansas
Emily from Yuba City, California
Winnie from Vancouver, British Columbia
Krystel from Sudbury, Ontario
Robyn from Stratford, Ontario
Kai from Los Angeles, California
Marie from Pomona, California
Julie from King George, Virginia

Happy Reading! :-D

One of my favorite movies is Music & Lyrics with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant. Drew’s character has a creative block at one point and she insists they go for a walk out in the city night. She says, sometimes you have to go see new things, do new things, eat new things to get past the block. And she does!

I’ve read several creativity and neuroscience books that suggest traveling to open up your creativity. (I’m still reading Imagine by Jonah Lehrer right now.) All the new experiences help to create new thoughts and patterns in your head. It’s particularly useful if you go somewhere quite unlike what you’re used to. If you live in the countryside of Alabama, a visit to New York City would be very different. If you live in Chicago, a visit to Albuquerque might really surprise you. Even though it was mostly the same language, living in Australia for a couple years definitely changed some of my neural pathways. :)

I think this way of thinking, looking for new ways of thinking, really does open up your creativity. If you have been in a normal, everyday kind of rut, do something different, eat something different.

I said last week that I’d spent the last two weeks working in a warehouse doing manual labor. I wondered how much my creativity would spike just by going from normal routine to something completely different and back to writing. Well, whether it was the change, or whether it was desperately wanting to get away and write again, I don’t know. But I got about 55,000 words edited last week! Woo-hooo!!

If you’re trying to figure out how to jumpstart your creativity, read something different like neuroscience books on creativity (I’ve read about half a dozen so far), or nonfiction history books (I heard Killing Lincoln is good), or children’s books (just saw that Lemony Snicket is coming out with a new book).

Or listen to something you haven’t listened to before. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately – Dave Ramsey and Joyce Meyer in particular. I’m learning a lot about new ways to think about money and new ways to think about living my life. Joyce has a great podcast series on watching your tongue, what you say to and about yourself, because you can make things happen – or not happen – by the way you talk, including how complaining affects your attitude and life.

I mentioned last week that I’m going to participate in the open submission window for Harper Voyager going on now. Then I heard that Love Inspired Suspense (part of Harlequin) has a Fast Track Event (open submissions) later this month. I’m brainstorming a new story for them, too. Carina Press, a digital imprint at Harlequin who accepts both romance and non-romance, has an open submission period going on now through Thursday. If you have a completed manuscript, or a synopsis and first chapter for Love Inspired Suspense, maybe the thing you need to do to change it up in your writing life is to submit your work. Right now.

The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll get feedback on why your book wasn’t right for the two Harlequin lines, or no response at all from Harper Voyager (per guidelines). That’s not bad. The best thing that could happen by submitting is that you’ve got a book someone wants to publish.

But the exciting thing that may well happen for you – it’s happening for me! – is that the deadline will add fire to your writing now. Trust me, it feels great!

Whatever you decide to do, try something different this week. It may change your writing, and your writing routines, for the better.

P.S. In the vein of sharing what I’m learning in the world of self-publishing, you’ve got to read this blog by Lindsay Buroker about her self-publishing journey. She really nails the points you need to be focusing on if you go this direction in your career.

          This isn’t the first time I’ve been surprised that it is Wednesday and I have no blog written. I think it might be the first time that I haven’t twisted my schedule into knots trying to write something at least a little interesting and helpful. This time, though, I really have no time. I have papers due, computer labs to finish, art projects and studying for mid-terms all vying for my attention. I’m taking 20 minutes to compose and upload this, then it’s back to doling out pieces to each of the screaming vultures devouring my time.

          In the course of writing a paper defining the term subplot for my English Composition class, I came across a website, Seven Story Plat Patterns, that might be useful. It’s written to those teaching children. Your first inclination may be to dismiss it or to be insulted. Don’t. When I homeschooled my children, I discover the best way to get a good overview of a topic was to get a children’s book on the topic. Although I did not use this site in my paper, it was a huge help in focusing the direction of my research and my writing. I hope it helps you, too.

         Off to feed those birds!