Why I Write: Find or Reignite Your Creative Fire

creativityThis is for anyone who creates, used to create, wants to be more creative, or wants to start creating something new or different. We all create things. Some of us make art, new recipes, or clothing. Some of us build businesses. Raise children. Creativity takes many forms. But life and time takes its toll. Our creative pursuits often fall to the wayside or we get burnt out, especially if we have to be creative for a living.

I once worked with a group of senior citizens in an assisted living center as a volunteer to help them write their stories. In the first session, there was a lot of silence until one woman finally said, the only thing I’ve ever written is a grocery list! The others laughed. I said – that counts! Because it does. (And yes, we got to their stories.) The ways we share our words and stories may have changed with social media. But any effort to capture our ideas, thoughts, plans and vision matter. That’s why we should do everything we can to make time to create and stay fired up about our creative passions.

One way to do this is Continue reading “Why I Write: Find or Reignite Your Creative Fire”

5 simple ways to make a change

I read once that all it takes is one person – one person to believe in you and it can make the difference between becoming a heroin addict on the street vs. becoming a happy, successful person. I agree, but seriously? It takes way more to make real, lasting change in your life. I have always embraced change because I know that while it is tough, good things happen on the other side. It’s the only way to move forward! That’s why change management is one of the best parts of my work. I get to listen to people share their concerns and help them get to the other side. It’s very satisfying to see people get there and know that I played a small part in that journey.

There are a few things I’ve learned along the way that you might find useful. Now, bear in mind, I am not a counselor. I am not a psychologist. I am just a person like you who’s had to navigate my share of change. Here’s what helped me and I hope it helps you too:

change1. Hold the intention. Whether your goal is to lose weight, advance in your career, get back to your creative work, or anything else, you must hold the intention to focus on that goal. Block time out on your calendar each week that is dedicated to achieving your goal and plan for that time. Set out your workout clothes the night before your workout. Cook your healthy food for the week every Sunday. Get your creative space ready with all the materials you need the day before. Think about your dedicated time and plan for it. Hold the intention to do the thing that you want to do. The thing that you think you cannot do, to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt.  You not only can do it. You will. Your stuff is already out and ready, after all. 🙂 I used this technique to lose 40 pounds and keep it off for 2.5 years. I’m nothing special – if I can do it, you can too!

Continue reading “5 simple ways to make a change”

7 comebacks for why you are not writing or finishing your book that just might trigger you to start writing again

Let’s say you are a writer and that, at some point, you have told your friends or family that you wanted to or were writing a book. Chances are pretty good that someone at some point has asked you how said book is going, if you are still writing, are you published, or another variation on, “Well, when the hell are you going to finish that thing already?!”

Now, we all assume that these kind-hearted souls are trying to be supportive. But let’s say that the moment they ask you this, your writing or otherwise so-called creative life is as off track as your exercise life, and you feel like you’ve been caught by your Weight Watchers sponsor on the couch with a box of doughnuts in one hand and a super size DQ Blizzard in the other while watching Biggest Loser.

I feel your pain.

Now pass me a Long John because I have good news. Since I am very busy not writing my book right this minute, I have concocted 7 snappy little comebacks you can whip out when people ask you if you are writing, finishing or publishing your book. And the best part is, most of them are actually writerly exercises in disguise, which may or may not prompt you to start writing again.

So the next time anyone asks why you are not writing or finishing your book, you will respond:

I am not writing or finishing my book because…

1. “I have never recovered from…” You can either finish this statement with a fictional disaster–being raised by a wild pack of roosters–or simply shake your head and wave the person away for it is simply too awful to contemplate let alone speak of it. Every time someone asks you why you haven’t finished your project, it implies that there is something wrong with you. No one likes failed expectations. So give the people what they really want: a chance to speculate on what is wrong with you. Is it a disease? Is there a cheating spouse? Is this a manifestation of something terrible that happened in childhood? (Cue the roosters.) This can lead to juicy gossip and if you’re lucky, even better fiction than you could have dreamed up alone on the couch slurping your DQ Blizzard.

2. “I’m swamped at the alpaca farm!” Sometimes, you have to lie to get people off your back. And that’s OK, because we’re writers, we make sh*t up all the time. Consider it writing practice! It’s good for you to flex your tall tale muscles as often as possible. Just make sure it’s a VERY tall tale, because if you start mumbling about being busy with work and the kids and laundry blah blah blah, people will hassle you because you have disappointed them (see failed expectations in comeback #1). If you’re a writer, you had better have a damn good excuse for not writing. So you need a distraction. You need to lie.

If you’re very good at it, they will forget about the book and become fascinated with your new life on the alpaca farm. And you just might have a new story on your hands.

3. “I can’t live without the anticipation.” You can follow this up by stating that unlike the rest of the world, you rather enjoy waiting–at the doctor’s office, at the vet, in line at the bank, and especially at  Six Flags Great America and Disneyland. On Christmas morning, you are the last one to open your gifts. Sometimes you even wait until the next Christmas to open them. Waiting is the best part and you’ve got nothin’ but time. You are one big Heinz Ketchup bottle of Anticipation, baby. Bring it!

4. “I’m afraid success may change me.” Everyone already knows what it feels like to fail–personally, I have the editors’ rejection letters to prove it. But if you write a Harry Potter or Twilight and knock it out of the park, there is a 50/50 chance you might become one of those doomed “The Lottery Changed My Life” people and end up drinking yourself to death in a motel room in Vegas, broke and alone, while the few people who actually remember you say, “Wow, if only she hadn’t hit success with that big fat book, she might still be here today, giving us gambling money.”

Hopefully by the time you explain this, people will have moved on to the slot machine and you and your failed expectations will be long forgotten. If not, see “You need a distraction” in #3. I recommend yelling, “Tequila shots for everyone? Wow, thanks .” (Be sure to invite me if you’re going to use that one.)

5. “I am currently extrapolating the dilemma of good vs. evil in a postmodern yet dialectic society that is analogous to Planet of the Apes.” You will probably only have to add one more nonsensical sentence before the audience’s eyes glaze over. All they will remember is the last thing you said, Planet of the Apes, and this is good because it acts as a transitional element for them to change the conversation to anything other than your writing.

This will be good practice for you if you have not done a reading in front of a live audience. It’s important to know exactly where in your writing people tuned out. WARNING: This is probably the best way to ensure that someone NEVER asks you about your book or your writing again, so use it wisely.

6. “But sweetie, writing takes me away from you for far too long!” Add a sweet smile at the end and you might just get lucky. But if you don’t, or you’re just pissed off and sick of people asking you about your damn writing, go with #7:

7. “My book is about you.” Immediately let out a forlorn sigh and stare off in the distance as if you are struggling with a mighty dilemma. At that point, the other person will either A. slap you, B. call a lawyer, C. cry, D. slap you again, or E. all of the above. Which means–you guessed it–you need a distraction. See “tequila shots” in #4.

And that’s it my friends, seven snappy, snarky little comebacks you can whip out at a moment’s notice when you are caught red-handed, not writing. Perhaps you have been inspired by all of these exciting potential confrontations. If so, get back to your chair and start writing again. If not, I say go for the tequila. There’s always a good story after tequila. 🙂

Writing process: How to get unstuck and have spanking clean toilets too

I have a book manuscript that I’ve dabbled with on and off since 2005. I recently cleared out my creative space and once again opened up the box with everything related to this project: a folder bulging with first drafts and revised drafts, research books, notes, email print-outs, three or four different outlines, story ideas, suggestions, schedules.

So many false starts, hopes, plans, dreams. All incomplete. Where to begin??? Like so many times before, I slapped the lid back on the box and shoved it back in its corner under my desk, out of sight but never out of mind.  My sense of failure was palpable.

Why can’t I finish this damn thing? Was it time to give it up? Had the moment to tell this story passed? I continued to berate myself as I threw in another load of laundry then headed upstairs to make dinner and clean the bathrooms, which is way more fun than feeling like a failure. I might not be able to finish this story, but by golly, my toilets will sparkle and I’ll make the best damn Hamburger Helper beef stroganoff ever!

The thing is, every time I return to this project, I get stuck right here. It didn’t help that I had some chapters in one computer file, others on a USB stick, still more on a disk, and multiple print-outs of copies and versions of drafts. I am organized in every aspect of my life, what the hell happened here? How would I know what was what? Where to start?

And then, shortly after the family was full of stroganoff, the toilets were sparkling, kids were in bed, and I was just about to overindulge in chocolate, I had an epiphany:

I could start over.

I sat up straight on the couch and put my chocolate down. Who said I have to try to put the pieces together from the way I saw this story five years ago? I always knew what the problem was: my story needed a skeleton to hang on, but every time I went back to the pieces, I was forcing the pieces to fit a structure that wasn’t working. Isn’t that the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result every time?

Yep, I’ve been driving myself crazy. But just like that, I gave myself permission to try a new structure. It seemed so simple, but I guess I had been so focused on making the square peg fit the round hole, I didn’t think to look for a new peg.

So, I’m starting fresh. I’m actually pretty excited about it, because I feel like I have a new skeleton that can work. I will pull details and scenes from the 200+ pages I’ve already written when and where it makes sense. That might sound depressing to some who aren’t used to the writing process, but sometimes you have to write a lot to find out what you have to say and the best way to say it.

If you’re stuck, consider clearing out your creative work space to make room for new ideas. Spend time in your creative space. Look at your old drafts. Don’t force  yourself to solve any problems. Try not to berate yourself. Read. Think. Ponder. Simmer. Just show up every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes, and see what happens.

As for my book, I don’t know if this new insight will solve everything. I hope I will finish this damn thing once and for all. Mostly, I feel pretty good. I’m trying. I’m writing again.

The most powerful word in the world

I love words. I tried to read the dictionary when I was 9 (yes, I was a big geek then too. I made it through the B’s.). My favorite board game, the only board game I will ever play, is Scrabble. I love how the right words strung together sounds like shimmering, cascading rhythms. And when those words move people to think or act? As MasterCard would say, Priceless!

So you can imagine that choosing the one, most powerful word was a challenging task indeed. It’s not “no.” It’s not “think,” or “me,” or “butt” as my kids had hoped. The most powerful word in the world is… Continue reading “The most powerful word in the world”