Category Archives: Writing

Keeping a Writer’s Notebook

Every book on writing and every successful writer has one piece of advice that they all agree on. The importance of keeping a writer’s notebook.

There are as many ways of keeping a notebook as there are personalities in the world, so I’m going to share with you what has worked for me. I challenge you to try this for 30 days. Just 1 month.

Pick a notebook. It can be pocket size or larger, but choose one that you’re comfortable writing in and that’s easy to carry around with you. Hardcover or soft. Decorated or plain. Make it your confidant and take it with you everywhere you go. Eat with it, sit with it, watch tv with it, sleep with it. Take your time to choose something you really like. It can be a simple, cheap spiral notebook, a composition book, or a sturdier moleskine or similar version. I personally prefer Field Notes. They are small enough to fit in my back pocket, and sturdy enough to last the month it takes me to fill it up. Find one you’re excited about using and a pen that can keep up with you.

Now make it yours. Add stickers, draw on it, tape a picture of someone or something that inspires you on it, or leave it blank. To break the ice, put your name and email inside the front cover in case you lose it, and number every other page. You can also add a quote on the first page to get you started.

Use it as a journal, daily log, book of lists, ideas, bits of conversation, doodles, names or words you like, something you’d like to know more about, books, people or websites you’d like to check out, movies you’ve watched, and any idea that pops into your head no matter how dumb you think it is. Try not to tear out any pages though…there are no mistakes.

Now this is where the road diverges. Some people like to keep separate notebooks for everything, some like to add an index in the beginning so they can refer back to certain subjects or ideas later on, some like to separate it into different sections for different purposes. Personally, I’m a minimalist, so I like just one notebook to write everything in, and then I can always transfer anything worthwhile once the book is filled. A stack of index cards held together with a binder clip works for some people. It’s just finding a system that works for you and encourages you to use it. Pinterest is an endless source for ideas.

As I mentioned earlier, I use Field Notes, which are 48 pages of 3.5 X 5.5 paper. I force myself to fill up one every month. Some months are easy, and I’m well into the second one before time’s up, and sometimes every word is an effort. At the end of the month, I read through it and highlight anything I think is worthwhile or I’d like to refer to later. Or I rewrite it into another notebook that’s more long term. Moleskine’s are my preference then, but Leuchtturn makes a fine notebook as well. I like the process of rereading them when I’m stuck for ideas, and it also helps me notice what I pay attention to.

Whether you’re a writer, poet, artist, photographer, musician, or architect, that fantastic idea you just had or that perfect line of dialogue you just overheard will be gone within the hour. Write it down before it’s lost forever.

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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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Filed under Art, Creativity, Uncategorized, Writing

Looking For New Topics To Write About?

The old adage “Write what you know” that you find in just about every book on writing that you’ll ever read is great. To a point. While it does provide you with a place to start, it’s also very limiting and monotonous.

So what should you write about? How about starting with what interests you? What have you always wanted to learn, or wished you learned more about in school? Document your journey as a novice on the subject. What did you learn that was unusually interesting or surprising? How do you feel about the subject knowing what you do now? It brings a fresh perspective to a topic, and allows your work to appeal to a much different audience than what has already been written.

Have you always wanted to be an expert on a certain topic? Make yourself one by creating your own study plan and documenting your progress. Devise your own syllabus, your own class, your own school, and at your own pace.

See what other people are talking about. Twitter is great for this, as is Facebook, You Tube, and local and national news. We are very fortunate to have the latest news and information right at our fingertips.

If you’re interested in writing a book, follow the bestsellers’ lists. Or check the major Publishing Houses to see what they’ve chosen to publish in the last year. Find out what kinds of books people want to read.

You could always write about your personal life as well. Dealing with depression, or aging parents, or divorce or the difficulty of child rearing? Tweet about it, blog about it, write personal essays… You’d be amazed at just how many other people are struggling with similar situations, and find comfort in your words and knowing they are not alone.
Even if you don’t sell what you’ve written in a month, or ever for that matter, you have now added it to your body of work. Every piece of information you learn, every subject that you study, just adds to your total repertoire. For now and for later.

There are two things in life that are guaranteed to never be a waste of time: learning and writing.

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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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Switching Gears

About 2 weeks ago, I noticed that my words were not flowing as well as they should. My work was sounding forced. Major stress at work, too many things on the to-do list, too many distractions, all contribute to this and interfere with my “writing brain”.  Anytime this happens, and it does more often than I’d like, I switch gears and move to only visual work.

By forcing myself not to write, it feels as if the well is replenishing itself. I know every book and website on writing advice will tell you that you have to write every day, but I believe that as long as you continue the creative habit you only strengthen your skills and your process.

Many writers I know take a break by switching to photography. My preference is drawing, so I’ve spent the last 2 weeks doing detailed architectural drawings and colorful doodles. It takes all the pressure off, allows the creativity to continue flowing, and eliminates most of the guilt. After a week or so of not allowing myself to write, I regain the excitement and can’t wait to get back to my keyboard. For me, it works every time.

Whatever your chosen art, when you get blocked or too uninspired, try exploring another one of your creative passions, or discover a new one. Immerse yourself in it. Any time you spend on your creative self is never wasted. You’ll be ready to get back to your writing before you know it.

 

Today’s project:

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