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Posts from the ‘Writing Life’ Category

Creativity begets creativity: How to build your creative muscles

In my 20s I was busy working and raising a family. I had no time for anything else, much less any creative endeavors. But one day I realized that part of me was missing—my creative self. I knew I needed to do something to fulfill that emptiness within but I didn’t know how to start.

Literally, the next day I was browsing in a book store and a book fell off the shelf and landed on my foot! Make Your Creative Dreams Real by SARK became my inspiration for designing my creative life. I don’t think I even finished the book, but I read enough to make a list of creative projects I wanted to pursue. I chose one—writing—and thus began my creative journey.

What I’ve learned over the years is that creativity begets creativity. Practicing creativity in any form exercises and strengths our creative muscles. Think of your imagination as a muscle for a moment.

When I had ankle surgery and couldn’t walk on my right leg for three months, I was amazed at how quickly I lost muscle tone. When I measured my calf muscles in both legs, my right leg was one inch smaller! Your imagination is like this—if you don’t use it, you lose it. And when you do exercise it, you gain momentum over time. Read more

How to use the six basic human needs to make your characters come to life, part 1

The key to writing strong, believable characters is to really know and understand your characters as if they’re living, breathing human beings.

You want to know your character’s background, what makes them tick, what has happened to them to make them who they are today, what they dream about for the future, and more.

You need to know all this even if it’s not in your story. I keep separate journals for each of my main characters so I can write about them and write from their point of view.

One tool that has helped me delve deeper into my characters’ motivations comes from human needs psychology which has defined six basic human needs.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins has written a great article on these needs, “Tony Robbins: 6 Basic Needs that Make us Tick.” The six needs are: Read more

Generate new ideas by letting your mind wander

Everywhere you look, people are glued to their phones—in the elevator, in restaurants, and unfortunately while they’re driving down the road.

Phone preoccupation has a cost. For one thing, it limits time and the opportunity to mine your subconscious for ideas. If you’re looking for ways to supercharge your creativity, set your phone aside and let your mind wander. Comedy writer David Evans shared this tip on a weekly teleseminar hosted this month by Stephanie Chandler, CEO of the Nonfiction Authors Association.

If you want to generate more ideas, devote time to accessing your subconscious where much of the creative process is at work. You’ll think of ideas, plot twists, and answers to your writing dilemmas by letting your mind wander, says Evans. He calls it, “wandering time.”

Evans talked about what makes comedy—An element of surprise for one thing. But to get there, you need new ideas. Evans started out writing greeting cards. His first big job in comedy was writing for “The Monkees,” a 1960s television show, in which he won an Emmy Award for Best Comedy. He went on to write 19 “Love American Style” television scripts, as well as other shows.

Embrace your wandering mind
Once you divert your attention to your phone, email, texting, or social media, you’ve kicked yourself out of your “wandering mind.” Take advantage of opportunities to let your mind roam: on the bus, at the doctor’s office, or while waiting in lines.

Chandler, who writes about book marketing and publishing, has experienced the power of wandering time. She was struggling to come up with a title for one of her books. “It hit me when I was standing in line at Starbucks,” she said. “If I was on my smart phone, I wouldn’t have thought of it.”

Access magical thinking
The creative process is magical and mysterious. Does it ever seem as though sentences and ideas pop up out of nowhere? Your ideas will bubble to the surface. You just have to create a connection to your subconscious, Try these techniques: Read more

Using your grief and other emotions to deepen your characters

It’s difficult to write about deep painful emotions, even in our characters, unless we’ve experienced them. And, even then, it’s not an easy task.

Strong emotions can be overwhelming. Sometimes we numb ourselves or run away in order to avoid our feelings. I used to do that until I realized on some level that the emotions would fester inside me until I actually did the work of processing my feelings and healing myself. The advantage of doing this when you’re a writer is that you can use what you learn about your emotions to deepen your characters. I wrote about this earlier in “Draw on personal pain to write believable characters.”

But I want to delve deeper into this subject today because I’m working on a scene in my novel where I’m trying to understand the complicated grief my antagonist has about his sister’s death and how it motivates him to do bad things.

Grief is one of the most complicated emotions because it can have shades of guilt, shame, anger, and other feelings mixed in. Read more

Eight exercises to develop curiosity and become a better writer (and person)

Developing our curiosity can serve to make us not only more interesting people but also better writers and more creative artists.

Being curious has helped me dig deeper in my writing, develop an authentic voice, and create more well-rounded characters. It has also improved my relationships and, overall, made me a happier person.

When I was younger, if someone started talking about a subject I wasn’t interested in (history, westerns, reptiles), I’d listen but my attention would wander after a while. Over the years, I learned to look at these exchanges from a different perspective.

I started asking myself, “What can I learn from this person about this subject that I didn’t know before?” Then I’d listen and ask questions. Suddenly, everything became much more interesting, including me! These types of interactions can also be mining grounds for future story ideas and character traits.

Artists need to be curious about their world, but with the stress and busyness of our daily lives, how do we maintain our child-like sense of wonder and curiosity?

Here are a few exercises that have helped me:

  1. Have an open mind.

Practice looking at things, people, and situations with a clear, open mind. When you find yourself judging someone, let go of the judgment. Instead, ask questions. Read more

How I find happiness and health through writing

I’ve dabbled in poetry off and on since my late teens. I’ll go through spurts of massive writing stints followed by some lean months, depending on what’s going on in my life. Over the years, writing and reading poetry has improved my mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Writing poetry, fiction, memoir, nonfiction, or even a blog post makes me happier, calmer, more peaceful, and less stressed. When I’m writing, everything is right with my world. If I go too long without writing, I can tell because I get grumpy! When I feel the grumps coming on, it’s my sign to start writing-—even writing a blog post will get me smiling again.

Research is just starting to reveal what poets and writers have known for centuries.

From the NPR article, Can Poetry Keep You Young?  “The early evidence suggests that the arts have positive cognitive, social, and emotional impact on older adults.”

When I’m in the flow of my writing—whether it’s poetry, fiction, or nonfiction—it’s like being infused in a certain healing frequency….like a cat purring on my lap. (Fun fact: Did you know that cats purr during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz?  Researchers have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing. Scientific American)

In the NPR article, one poetry workshop participant said, “Poetry helped me begin to focus how I felt about losing my son. When you lose, you also remember what you had before the loss. And so poetry allows you to begin to look at a relationship, at what was of value to you.”

Read more

What do roadwork, domestic violence and creativity have in common?

Roadwork has been going on in front of my house for over eight weeks—horrendous dust and dust storms, constant machine noise, speeders that don’t slow down for road conditions, dirt embedded inside and outside my car, and layers of dust covering my house and property. I can’t sit out on my beautiful deck without inhaling copious amounts of dust (not good for someone with asthma). And, their big trucks wake me every morning by 7:30. Maybe the upside is I might finally become a morning person?

I’ll be happy when it’s over and I’ll appreciate the new services. I’m not complaining… well, maybe a little…but I’m writing about this because I was horrified to realize this morning that I’ve become used to all this noise and commotion.

As I’m typing, my house is shaking. Vibrating. The sound of a jackhammer like an angry bird beating its wings against my windows. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. Read more