Category Archives: Art

Top 10 Books For Writers and Everyone Trying to Live a More Creative Life

Here’s my list of the top 10 books for writers, for those needing some inspiration, and for everyone who is just trying to add a little creativity to their life. There are many others that are worthy of your time, but I’ve scaled back my list to just 10. I’ve included links to amazon.com for consistency, and to make it easier to see more information on each title. As always, please support your local bookseller and independent bookstores like powells.com or bookpeople.com whenever possible.

On Writing ~ Stephen King

Part memoir, part master class, this is by far one of the most definitive books on the art of writing. Full of inspiration and practical advice from one of the true masters. Every writer should have this on their bookshelf.

Daily Rituals ~ Mason Currey

One of my favorite books to pick up and browse through, Daily Rituals is Mason Currey’s massive collection of habits, quirks, routines and rituals of individual writers, artists, scientists, inventors, and a host of other creative minds. Fascinating insight into the creative process.

Bird By Bird ~ Anne Lamott

Already in its 25th Anniversary edition, this classic is also a must read. Filled with advice, humor and wit, and layered with honest and personal stories of her life and journey as an author. You’ll find this on most Writing Top 10 lists.

Steal Like An Artist ~ Austin Kleon

I’ve included Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work, and Keep Going all by Austin Kleon as a trilogy, but each book is worthy in its own right. Each contains honest, straight forward advice and solutions for everyone trying to make their way in the creative world. I refer back to all 3 frequently for motivation, inspiration, and help in resetting my goals and priorities.

The Elements of Style ~ Strunk and White

Included in many college writing curriculums, this classic guide covers everything from grammar and style to usage. A handy reference guide to have on hand.

On Writing Well ~ William Zinsser

Another fundamental classic that should be in every writer’s arsenal, this one focuses on writing clear, concise nonfiction. A must read for content writers, copywriters, grant writers and anyone who just wants to learn how to tighten up their writing.

No Plot? No Problem! ~ Chris Baty

Written as a guide to penning a novel in 30 days, this is an adrenaline fueled, kick in the pants push to get you motivated and just get the words out. A fun read, and great for anyone putting off writing that novel.

Things Are What You Make Of Them ~ Adam J. Kurtz

Life Advice for Creatives. A boost of support, motivation, compassion and inspiration on those days when you feel like no one is listening.

The Art of Noticing ~ Rob Walker

131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration and Discover Joy in the Everyday. Through a series of simple exercises, Rob Walker guides us through a reawakening of our senses, helping us to take note of the world around us. Perfect for both writers and artists, it points out all the things we tend to overlook, and teaches us to pay attention in new ways to the world around us.

Four Thousand Weeks ~Oliver Burkeman

This book will be released on August 10th, but I’ve included it in my Top 10 because I’m a huge fan of Oliver Burkeman’s past work. He addresses the entire “Productivity Crush” felt by creative people in all fields, and offers warm, heartfelt advice on time management, and the balance between productivity and creativity.

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It Doesn’t Get Any Easier, So Why Not Start Now?

You’ve got your notebook, you’ve got your passion, and now your final preparation is making that commitment to yourself. That’s right, to yourself. Everyone else gets your attention and time, and it’s perfectly acceptable to claim a bit of it for your own.

Whether you’ve carved out a quiet piece of real estate in your home (or more realistically a flat space) or bundled your laptop and supplies in a backpack so you can work anywhere, it’s time to honor and respect yourself enough to make that promise. I will make time to practice my art. A certain time on specific days, an hour a day, a specific word count for the day or week…whatever it takes for you to make it happen. And happen easily and consistently.

You can draw up a contract and sign it (which didn’t work for me…too easy to throw away and pretend it never happened, but it has worked for others) or you can buy something to commemorate the occasion. A special coffee mug, some business cards which are surprisingly affordable, a nice pen…anything that reminds you of your passion, your dream, your true self.

This isn’t a lifetime commitment to one project…it’s merely symbolic. You may have set your word count to 5000 words a week and you’re only reaching 3000, or only finding time 3 days a week instead of 5, that’s fantastic! Every single step is progress. Adjust your schedule as needed. Set yourself up to succeed.

Start a blog, write letters, write poetry, write in a journal, or tell stories. It truly doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you are writing. You might discover that those little doodles you make in your notebook are a lot of fun, and decide to learn how to draw as well.

I’ll be sharing some books, newsletters and websites in the following weeks that will hopefully give you lots of inspiration and ideas to keep that passion burning and keep you excited about being creative.

Until then, be kind to yourself, and enjoy your time, your passion and your life.

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Scavenging For Ideas

While you’re spending time keeping your hands busy making small things, and your thoughts calm, it’s also the perfect time to be collecting ideas. Creating a “swipe file”, an “idea file”, or a “future projects file” can help offer some promise or hope that the muse will return, and you will once again be able to continue your creative pursuits.

Whether you keep these ideas and images on your computer, or on paper is solely up to you. I, myself, prefer to collect these things manually. There’s something comforting about taking pen to paper or cutting out images and words by hand, and it triggers a different part of my brain than typing or cutting and pasting on a keyboard does. Many find that the opposite is true. Experiment with each way and see which works better for you. Or do both. I keep all my ideas in a box, which allows me to dig through it when I’m ready, and often several will piece together and morph into something totally unexpected.  The important thing is that you’re cultivating ideas, and still always moving forward. They don’t have to be great ideas, but they only exist if you acknowledge them. You have a lifetime to decide if they are good enough to work with.

Lists are also a great way to gently nudge your muse. List all the things you like to photograph or draw or paint, everything you enjoy writing about, all the instruments you’d like to learn how to play, your favorite bands, your favorite authors or books, movies or books you’d like to see or read, places you’d like to go, things you’d like to make, everything you have enjoyed doing, and especially everything that you would like to enjoy in the future. You can add house project lists, art supply inventory lists, things you’d like to buy…the well of possibilities has no bottom.

Everything that you are doing; emptying your brain of all the chattering and worries onto paper, distracting and distancing yourself from the things you cannot change, and nurturing, protecting, and making time for your creative energy will be the fuel that gets you to the next step in your journey. Just one small step at a time.

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Creating In the Middle of Chaos

We all see it… the world around us is in chaos. We wake each morning wondering what’s going to happen today, what new challenges are going to be thrown upon us, what’s next in this seemingly unending uncertainty and upheaval.

We want to continue with our creative endeavors, practice our craft, disengage from the world and continue making art, writing stories, living our lives as best we can while fulfilling that desire and need to be who we are.

But focusing…focusing on our art while constantly being bombarded with information from tv, from social media, from neighbors and family and friends, is just about impossible. What was once a simple trip to the store is now unsettling and uncomfortable. You can feel the tension and fear in the air. Our leaders, whose job it is to unite us, are instead dividing us.

But now is the most important time for us to use our creativity to both protect ourselves and do what we can to help our society. To pull out the positive, to shine a light on both the good and the bad, to document the history and tell the stories.

So how do we regain our focus long enough to do this? By taking a step back, realizing what we can and cannot control, and taking a different route than we have become accustomed to.

  1. Document everything that is happening. Take 15 minutes, or more if you wish, and write just a blurb about what transpired that day. You can use a page-a-day diary, a notebook, a sketchbook…whatever you’re comfortable with. Pocket size or large. Something that you can hold onto that is tangible and comforting. You can make it personal by dumping your brain onto the pages every day, giving those emotions and worries a place to land. You can approach it like a historian and write about the events of the day. Or you can combine the two. How has one affected the other? Just put words down on paper. It’s for your eyes only.
  2. Make collages. Cut up scraps from the junkmail clogging up your mailbox. Cut words out and glue them to paper. Add pictures from magazines or drawings you’ve made, or stickers you might have around. Don’t over think it. Do it in your logbook, your journal, whatever you’d like to call it. Add some doodles or random words. Your hands are engaged and you’re making something.
  3. Try your hand at a haiku. (3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables) Try to use words you like or enjoy the sound of. Or just open a dictionary and pick one to start.
  4. Watch a funny, silly, outdated movie. Or go the other way and watch an old foreign film with subtitles. The idea is to just let your brain detach itself from current events.
  5. Take a walk. Negativity, fear and creative blocks hate fresh air. It’s a great way to remind yourself that life is still out there. The sun is still rising and setting, the tides are still coming in and out, the plants and trees are still growing and the birds are still singing.

 

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Just 15 minutes

We all know those people…the ones who seem to have so much time in their lives to devote to their passions, their interests, their creative endeavors. How do they do it? We have jobs, families, friends, projects we need to do at home, errands to run, emails to answer, news and social media to keep up with…and the list just goes on and on.

We’ve heard all the advice from the “experts”. Get up an hour earlier and write or draw or paint before you go to work, or stay up later after everyone has gone to bed and take that time for yourself. I personally am so exhausted after just making it through another day of life on this planet that this is not an option for me, as I know it isn’t for most of you.

The answer for me is starting with just 15 minutes, sometime during the day while I am still awake and interested, and working on something important to me. Whether it’s writing down a list of things I’d like to do, drawing a doodle, jotting down ideas for future writing projects, reading a chapter of a book, journaling, or just spending some alone time looking at my surroundings and not my phone.

Examine how you spend your time, and it’s easy to realize that we can spare just 15 minutes a day for our own needs, dreams, and fulfillment. It’s amazing the rush we get when we take even this small amount of time and devote it to what truly has meaning to us as creative souls. Whether you are a writer, artist, musician or a creative in any way, or always wished you could be, this 1 small step, this 15 minutes, encourages us and renews our personal validation. You’ll be surprised over time how this small amount of time you spend pursuing your creative endeavors will begin to grow, and you will notice how much easier it will become to expand that to 20 minutes, then half an hour, and then an entire hour.

Each step we take pushes us further along, and giving yourself permission to be you, to allow time for yourself, to encourage your creativity will only contribute to your overall sense of peace. Every book is written one sentence at a time, every drawing one line at a time. Write that sentence today. Draw that line today.

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Writer To Writer II

Some more quotes on writing to encourage, inspire and motivate….

 

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Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

I’ve spent the last several weeks examining and dissecting my life to see when and how it got so complicated. I had once again fallen into that trap of constantly pushing, rushing, trying to accomplish as much as possible every day, and the things I love to do, writing and drawing, had gotten relegated to the bottom of the list.

It’s so easy to get sucked into that whirlwind of productivity, the endless chores and commitments, the spinning on the wheel that gets us nowhere. The faster we try to finish everything, the faster more gets added to the list.

I have now prioritized and refocused, and with that came a huge sense of relief. The outside world can be crushing to a desired life of individuality and creativity.

When you feel like you’re losing yourself, when your joys and creativity are being stifled and suffocated, when you start putting yourself at the very bottom of your to-do list, it’s time to stand up for yourself and just say “hell no!!”

It’s not easy, but you’ll never regret it. The more we allow ourselves to thrive, to create, to be individuals, the happier, healthier and more successful we become. And the better we can be to and for the people around us.

Make yourself a list of 10 things you can do to simplify your life. Mine included going from 2 part-time jobs to 1 full-time, running errands only once or twice a week, and reducing the number of “things” I needed in my life. I purged my possessions and eliminated the clutter around me. It also included spending less time on social media.

Now make a list of 10 creative things you’d love to do. That’s your new to-do list. I’ve been dying to build something; a table, a shelf, anything.. I have a list of topics to write about, subjects to study, and drawings I’d like to do. I feel focused and excited again.

So what is it that you would like to do? You’re the only one who knows, and the only one who can make the decision to do it. No one is going to tell you that you should spend more time creating. That has to come from you.

You have to believe in yourself before others can believe in you.

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Change Your Focus To Change Your Attitude

A few simple ways to change focus from that hectic schedule and unopened email to the people and things that are most important in our lives. Sometimes it´s as easy as just moving things around so we see them in a new light. Changing our focus can help change our attitudes, reduce stress, and renew our appreciation for what we have.

There are times when we become so absorbed in our daily activities and routines that we often forget to notice and appreciate the special people and objects around us. Instead, what we do see is the dust on the pictures hanging on the walls, the pile of papers building up on the table, the stack of unopened mail, or the shoes forming a pyramid at the front door.

With our hectic schedules, it’s so easy to become distracted and focused on other things. Just processing the massive amount of information that the world presents to us on a constant basis can leave us drained and inattentive.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back from our lives to see what’s right in front of us. Often, all it takes is simply moving these things from where we’re so used to seeing them for us to notice them again.

A few suggestions:

  • Rearrange the paintings and posters you have hanging on the walls. You loved them when you bought them, but when was the last time you really noticed them? Move them around, replace the ones that you aren’t crazy about with the ones stacked in the back of the closet.
  • Replace some of the family photos on the walls, tables, or mantle with more recent ones. Or better yet, take some new ones this weekend, frame them, and put them out.
  • Move some of the furniture around. Start with some of the smaller pieces, and try to create some cozy seating areas, or an inviting conversation nook.
  • Change the things you display. The crystal clock that you’re mother-in-law gave you that you never liked but felt compelled to leave out? Replace it with a small bowl of shells from your last trip to the beach, that sculpture you picked up in Shanghai, or maybe a pretty wine bottle that you and your loved one had shared.
  • Put the piles of papers, unopened mail, and unread magazines in matching baskets or bins. It’s much more visually appealing, as well as manageable.
  • Take almost everything off of your bedside table. It’s the last thing you see when you go to bed, and the first thing you see when you get up in the morning. Leave the alarm clock, a reading lamp, a favorite book, and no more than a few things that inspire you, or have special meaning.
  • When you do have the time to dust, don’t put things back exactly where they were. Keep moving things around.
  • Replace those generic office supply storage containers on your desk with some favorite objects. Grandma’s teacup makes a great paper clip holder; Dad’s coffee can from his workbench makes a terrific pencil cup. Have some fun finding the things you have that you enjoy looking at and using.
  • Take ten minutes out of your day to really see someone who is important to you. Pay attention as they speak, hear what they’re saying, watch their expressions. If they can’t be there in person, make that phone call. Tell the people in your life that they are important, and that they matter to you.

 

Life can easily get overwhelming and distracting. Take a few minutes to clear your mind and your space. By simply moving things around and surrounding yourself with the people and possessions that matter to you, you’ll find it much easier to change your focus to what is truly important. Once you can concentrate on what really matters, you’ll enjoy a much better perspective on life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Writer to Writer

Here are some of my favorite quotes from writers on writing and creativity. They make great desktop backgrounds or print out and hang over your workspace.

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Write What You Love and Love What You Write

Write What You Love, and Love What You Write

You’re passion and excitement for the subjects you write about shows in every sentence you create and every word you choose. If you’re not interested and excited about your subject, then your readers won’t be either.

There are hundreds of genres and sub-genres in the world of writing. Make a list of all the subjects that you’re passionate about, and all the things that interest you. Find your niche. Connect with people online-google searches, writing groups, twitter…Look for publications, e-zines, newsletters or any other outlet that may be interested in buying or publishing your work. If it interests you, then there are others that are also interested in it too.

Writing is hard work, as we’ve all discovered by this point. You have to put in the time and do the work if you want to create good copy. Think about what you want to say, research it, plan it out, write it down, then rewrite it as many times as necessary to make it exactly the way you want. Choose your words, your sentence length and structure carefully. Read it out loud.

I compare writing to art frequently. We as writers are artists. We create works of art with words. If a painter paints something they have no passion for, it will be flat and uninspired. The same is true for a writer. Write about what you care about, and you will create interesting and insightful works that you will be proud of.

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